BOTH of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate seats will be filled this year, a historically unusual turn of events. The prospect of a return to Republican control makes all Senate races especially important to conservatives. This state has an opportunity to fill its two seats with experienced politicians who know how to govern and who will advance the conservative cause.
Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is up for re-election for a six-year term. In Tuesday’s primary, Inhofe faces four GOP opponents. None has provided a reason to reject Inhofe. A national leader on defense issues, he is a proven commodity and tenacious fighter for the state’s best interests. The Oklahoman enthusiastically endorses Inhofe.
The other Senate race involves a special election to fill the unexpired term of Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, who is leaving office two years early. Seven Republican candidates are vying to take Coburn’s place, but only two appear to be viable: U.S. Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma City and former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon of Lawton.
Coburn has set a high standard, a standard that his successor would do well to emulate. Coburn has been hard-working and detail-oriented. He’s been confrontational when necessary, but reached across party lines when feasible. He’s been willing to criticize fellow Republicans, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, when they’re in the wrong, and willing to work with Democrats on some issues.
The consistent theme throughout his career has been Coburn’s unwavering dedication to advancing conservative policy, particularly in his efforts to identify and eliminate government waste. Ideally, Oklahoma’s next U.S. senator will meet the Coburn standard. To do this, he must be both an astute politician and a statesman.
Although a member of the U.S. House for less than four years, Lankford has compiled an impressive record of proven, practical, effective leadership. He’s focused on the nuts and bolts of policymaking while also showing sound political instincts. After serving only one term in office, Lankford was elected to a leadership position in the House Republican caucus. This demonstrates enormous political skill that is belied by Lankford’s unassuming demeanor.
Lankford has led the charge to reduce fraud in entitlement programs and eliminate duplication across government agencies. He’s held effective oversight hearings on energy, health care and environmental issues. His efforts have won high praise from the man he seeks to replace: Coburn has called Lankford “a great man of character” and lauded Lankford’s oversight work.