CONSTITUENTS in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District are losing an excellent representative in Republican James Lankford. After two terms in the House, Lankford has his sights set on the U.S. Senate.
The House seat he will vacate is considered “safe” for Republicans. The good news for GOP voters is that two strong candidates are on the ballot in Tuesday’s runoff election. Former state Sen. Steve Russell and Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas were the top two vote-getters in the six-person primary in June. Russell won 26.6 percent of the vote, Douglas 24.5 percent.
Tuesday’s winner will face either Tom Guild, a retired college professor, or state Sen. Al McAffrey, who are meeting in the Democratic runoff. Neither has much chance of winning in November.
Russell spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He then served one term in the state Senate, stepping aside in 2012. His background makes him well versed in foreign affairs and military affairs. If he were to win election to Congress, he would be a strong voice in both these areas.
His views on some issues, such as immigration, appear more inclusive and tolerant than those espoused by many conservative candidates. In explaining his brief stay at the state Capitol, Russell said he accomplished everything he set out to do when he got there. Among the highlights was a bill that removed the state income tax on federal pay to troops.
Russell’s spotty attendance for floor votes is troubling, however, as was his vote against a lawsuit reform bill that aligned him with liberal Democrats. His explanations for the former have been vague; his defense of the latter, rooted in the book of Leviticus, is unconvincing. Other raps on Russell — that he doesn’t yet live in the 5th District, for example — are less concerning and shouldn’t be a factor when voters make their choice.
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