Oklahoma U.S. Rep. James Lankford made it official Monday.
He's a candidate for U.S. Senate.
“I believe that the conservative solutions that can be proposed and that I'll bring can help families from every race, every economic background and every town in our country,” Lankford declared Monday during his candidacy announcement at Oklahoma City's Oklahoma History Center.
Lankford is seeking the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee.
Lankford's candidacy declaration came just four days after Coburn announced plans to leave the Senate two years early, at the end of the current congressional session.
Lankford said it was not a snap decision to run, noting that Coburn has been signaling for a couple of months that he might leave office before the end of his term.
“Our family took a lot of time to be able to pray and talk this through during the Christmas holidays, said Lankford, who served as program director of Falls Creek, a Christian youth camp, before first being elected to the House of Representatives in November 2010.
Lankford is the first candidate to announce he will seek Coburn's seat. U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, and state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, have indicated they are contemplating running for that office. While U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt have said they will not enter the Senate race.
Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas and state Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, are among candidates believed to be considering a race for the House seat Lankford will be leaving.
Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, praised Coburn for his crusade against wasteful government spending and said it is a fight he will continue if elected to the Senate.
“I hope that everyone in the Senate and the House wants to champion that,” Lankford said. “I hope that's not unique. Fighting government waste is one of those signature things that will always be a Dr. Coburn thing. It should always be a part of everything that we do.”
Lankford said he received encouragement from a lot of people to run for Senate, but declined to say whether Coburn was among the people encouraging him to run.
“I'll leave Senator Coburn's decisions up to Senator Coburn of what he wants to do,” Lankford said.
John Hart, Coburn's spokesman, said, “It isn't likely Dr. Coburn will formally endorse anyone, but may support a candidate in his capacity as a citizen.”
Lankford said he decided to run for the Senate rather than seeking re-election to the House of Representatives because senators have additional “fire power” that can enable them to accomplish more things.
“I have three research staff in the House,” Lankford said. “In the Senate, they have a much larger research staff.”
That puts senators in a better position to develop solutions to the nation's problems, he said.
Lankford is running as a conservative, but he already is receiving some conservative opposition.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, an influential Political Action Committee based in the Washington area, came out against Lankford on Monday, saying it wouldn't support him because of Lankford's “past votes to increase the debt limit, raise taxes and fund Obamacare.”
Lankford downplayed the significance of the opposition.
“I think every person can decide. If a Washington, D.C.-based group wants to make a decision on what they want to do, obviously they're welcome to be able to do that,” Lankford said.
Lankford touted his accomplishments as a congressman, saying he:
Authored the Taxpayer Right to Know Act to force federal programs to identify their real costs.
Worked three years in a row to cut government spending as a member of the House Budget Committee.
Won a change in House rules to stop duplicate programs before they start.
Won more state control over highway construction.
Held numerous hearings and investigations to stop fraud waste.
Contributing: Washington Bureau Staff Writer Chris Casteel