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.
This is a critical election. If Republicans take control of the Senate, they must start governing rather than campaigning, something Barack Obama has never quite understood. Policymaking should trump political machinations. Governance, statesmanship and policymaking require skills that Lankford has in abundance.
In today’s media age, many lawmakers from both parties gain press attention through outlandish, prickly and partisan pronouncements. Statesmanship counts for little in a city where true statesmen are hard to find. In contrast, Lankford has become an invaluable spokesman for congressional conservatives by conveying competence and intelligence. Routinely interviewed by national media outlets, Lankford has never come across as anything other than articulate, informed, conservative and reasonable.
The Shannon campaign has attempted to paint Lankford as being less conservative and more willing to compromise with liberals. This is not the James Lankford we know. He doesn’t support tax increases. He doesn’t want the federal government to grow in power while increasing its debt to staggering levels.
We find much to like about T.W. Shannon. He’s articulate and affable. He would add an element of diversity to the national GOP. Both Shannon and Lankford are solid family men. Both are men of faith. Both would undoubtedly compile comparably conservative voting records in the U.S. Senate. Our choice in this race isn’t based on who will cast conservative votes — both men would.
Rather, our choice is based on who would uphold the Coburn standard. It’s centered on who would most consistently choose policymaking and statesmanship over politics and platitudes, and on who would do the most to advance a true conservative philosophy.
By these measures, Lankford is clearly the better choice between the two candidates.