TULSA — Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon formally announced his candidacy Wednesday for the GOP race for the state's open U.S. Senate seat, moments after another Republican hopeful said he won't run.
Shannon, R-Lawton, is seeking the Senate seat held by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who is stepping down two years early at the end of this congressional term.
“Over the last six years, I have seen so many of our rights and freedoms under assault, it makes me seriously concerned about what kind of country my children will inherit,” Shannon told a crowd at the Tulsa Historical Society.
Minutes earlier, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine released a statement saying he wouldn't run for the open seat.
“Since Dr. Tom Coburn's retirement announcement, I have been honored and overwhelmed by encouragement to succeed him as Oklahoma's senator,” Bridenstine said.
“After giving this matter serious consideration and prayer, my family and I have decided I will not to run in the special election to complete Dr. Coburn's term,” Bridenstine said.
Bridenstine was elected to the U.S. House in 2012 after upsetting Republican incumbent Rep. John Sullivan in the primary.
Shannon will join two-term U.S. Rep. James Lankford and two others in the race for the Republican nomination.
No Democrats have formally announced. A Democrat has not been elected to an open U.S. Senate seat in Oklahoma since David Boren in 1978 and Republicans are heavily favored to maintain this one.
Shannon praised Bridenstine's support for his Senate bid and said he and Bridenstine had been in talks about the race in recent weeks.
“He's a good guy who has stood up and been a leader in the House, and certainly him opening the door for me to seek even more support has been helpful to the campaign,” Shannon said.
In a 10-minute speech, Shannon outlined what he thinks has been going wrong in Washington: businesses that must overcome a “maze of federal rules and regulations,” the Affordable Care Act, which he said forces people to buy health insurance they “may not want,” and wasteful spending.
Shannon said Oklahomans needed to elect “someone who will go to Washington like Dr. Tom Coburn first did and say ‘no' to the spending and the debt that is bankrupting this country.”
A member of the Chickasaw Nation, Shannon, 35, was the first black and the youngest speaker of the Oklahoma House when he was elected last year.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus last year called Shannon a “rising star” within the GOP, and Shannon has participated in several RNC-sponsored events across the United States.
“We can either work to save this country together or we can continue going down the same path with more debt and economic ruin,” Shannon said.