LAWTON — Five of the seven candidates seeking the Republican nomination in the race for Oklahoma’s open U.S. Senate seat touted their conservative credentials and took turns criticizing President Barack Obama at a forum Friday in Lawton.
Two-term U.S. Rep. James Lankford, of Oklahoma City, and former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, of Lawton, are the front-runners to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, a hero to conservatives who is foregoing the final two years of his term amid a recurrence of cancer.
Also participating in Friday’s debate were former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, of Owasso, college professor Kevin Crow, of Chickasha, and Eric McCray, a Broken Arrow businessman.
Three Democrats and an independent also are in the race, but a Democrat hasn’t been elected to an open U.S. Senate seat in Oklahoma since David Boren in 1978, and Republicans are heavily favored to retain this one. State Republicans are confident the real battle for the seat will be held June 24, the date of Oklahoma’s primary election. If no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote, a primary runoff will be Aug. 26.
Lankford, who has quickly risen to a top leadership post in the Republican-controlled U.S. House, talked about his experience as a member of the House Budget Committee and some of the investigations being conducted by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, upon which he also serves.
He said his work on the federal budget during his more than three years in Congress puts him in a good position to grapple with one of the primary concerns of voters: the national debt and federal deficit.
“I’m very invested into the budget and how to get us out of this,” Lankford said. “The budget that we’re dealing with is a bigger mess than you can possibly imagine.”
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