The two Republicans leading the open U.S. Senate race in Oklahoma made clear Wednesday they differ from the conservative icon they’re trying to replace in a very key way.
In a debate on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, state Rep. T.W. Shannon and U.S. Rep. James Lankford said they were not for self-imposed term limits.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, set term limits for his U.S. House and Senate service and has said dozens _ if not hundreds _ of times that such limits are the key to remaining independent and not making decisions based on how it would impact reelection hopes.
There may be nothing Coburn dislikes more in Washington than people who make a career in Congress.
On the Wednesday debate _ hosted by News 9 in Oklahoma City and News on 6 in Tulsa _ one of the anchors talked about Coburn’s self-imposed term limits (he actually got it wrong as far as Senate service goes. Coburn pledged to serve only two terms, 12 years, in the Senate. Coburn’s three-term pledge was in the U.S. House where he served from 1995 to 2001).
Coburn himself was allowed to ask Lankford and Shannon the question, via videotape:
“The concept of being a citizen legislator appeals to the majority of Oklahoma voters,” Coburn said.
“What is your motivation for running for the Senate? Do you approach this an opportunity as a short-term way to serve our country and our state or as a way to advance your long-term political career?”
Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, and Shannon, R-Lawton, both said they oppose self-imposed term limits but support term limits that apply equally to all in a legislative body.
Shannon said “term limits make a lot of sense at all levels of government,” including the federal judiciary. But he said he didn’t believe in unilateral term limits.
” I don’t believe we should trade Dr. Coburn and keep (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid,” Shannon said.
Lankford, who also rejected self-imposed term limits in his 2010 campaign for the U.S. House, said he still doesn’t like them “because the good guys leave early like Dr. Coburn.”
Lankford said he would agree to limit himself to three terms _ which is 18 years in the U.S. Senate. Coburn limited himself to 12 years in the Senate but will only serve 10 of those. He is stepping down at the end of the current congressional session.
The primary is Tuesday. A runoff, if necessary, will be held on Aug. 26.