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Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford wins spot in House Republican leadership team

The Oklahoma City freshman secures fifth-ranking spot without a race and will help develop Republican policy on issues ranging from spending to immigration reform
by Chris Casteel Modified: November 14, 2012 at 7:43 pm •  Published: November 14, 2012

He pointed to his work earlier this year on forging a compromise on a two-year highway bill as a chance to interact with House leaders and numerous other members.

“I think we gained some trust through that process and some favor from individuals who said, ‘OK, I think this guy can do it,'” Lankford said Wednesday.

House leaders tapped him last year to give the response to President Barack Obama's weekly address to the nation — Lankford spoke about energy — and he has been interviewed frequently on national television. He was also made chairman last year of a House subcommittee.

Lankford, 44, came seemingly out of nowhere in 2010 to win the Republican nomination for the 5th Congressional District seat. He was director of a Baptist youth camp and a political novice when he beat two well-funded Republicans with state legislative experience. He easily won the general election that year, and won his second term last week in the district that includes most of Oklahoma County and Seminole and Pottawatomie counties.

Focus on policy

Lankford said Wednesday that his interest in the policy committee wasn't indicative of an ambition to climb the leadership ladder. He said his focus was on policy, rather than politics.

“We came to here make a difference,'' he said. “Once we kind of determined that's a way to do it, we went after it.”

His leadership position also gives him a seat on the panel that chooses committee assignments, which could benefit two incoming Republican freshmen from Oklahoma — Jim Bridenstine, of Tulsa, and Markwayne Mullin, of Westville.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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