WASHINGTON — Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon plans to enter the Republican race for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's seat on Wednesday, and will make separate announcements in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and his hometown of Lawton.
Shannon's entry in the race means a matchup of two of the state's rising political stars in a contest to succeed a conservative icon.
Shannon, 35, first won his House seat in 2006 and rose to the top job after three terms. Shannon, who is black, is also a member of the Chickasaw Nation.
He has been courted by the national Republican Party and was apparently being groomed for higher office.
Already in the race is Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, a political novice when he won his congressional seat in 2010; Lankford, 45, is now a member of the House Republican leadership team.
Oklahoma City businessman Eric McCray, who works for McCray and Sons Heat and Air, said this week that he also will run for the Republican nomination. U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, has been considering the race but has said he won't rush into a decision.
Two years left
Coburn, R-Muskogee, announced two weeks ago that he would resign at the end of the congressional session with two years left of his term. The election to complete the term will be held at the same time as the regular elections this year.
In an email to his Republican colleagues in the House, Shannon said Tuesday that he would remain as speaker “for the time being.”
He said he felt called to run for Coburn's seat “because I believe it is vitally important for Oklahoma to have a strong conservative voice in the Senate, and I hope my fellow Oklahomans will agree.”
Shannon can't use his state campaign funds for the federal race, so Lankford will have a huge head start because he can transfer the federal funds from his House campaign to the Senate campaign.
However, Shannon released a list of members of his exploratory committee who can certainly help on the financial side; the list includes bankers, business owners, attorneys, energy company leaders and others.
In a release on Tuesday, Shannon laid out an agenda for the upcoming state legislative session that focuses on individual and corporate tax cuts and reforming the state's judicial system.