Republicans are getting in line — or taking a pass — at filling the Senate seat to be vacated at the end of the year by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
Coburn, who has been undergoing chemotherapy for a recurrence of prostate cancer, announced last week that he’ll be leaving at the end of the 113th Congress even though his term expires in 2016.
The special election in Oklahoma will run on the same cycle as this year’s general election, meaning hopefuls need to get their campaigns in gear fast for the June 24 primary.
On Monday, Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said he’ll throw his hat into the ring.
“After a great deal of thought, prayer, and discussion with my family, I feel led to continue my Oklahoma common sense and principled approach to attack the deep problems in the United States Senate,” Lankford said.
Lankford, the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee who has quickly worked his way up to fifth in the House leadership since his 2010 election, has an 84 percent rating from the American Conservative Union and a 100 percent rating from the Family Research Council.
But the Senate Conservatives Fund came out before Lankford’s official announcement to say they wouldn’t support the former Baptist camp director.
The SCF is holding out for a potential run by freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), one of the handful of House GOPs who didn’t back John Boehner (R-Ohio) for speaker. Instead, the Tea Party Republican voted for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to get the gavel.
“It’s not clear yet which candidates will run for the seat,” SCF executive director Matt Hoskins said in an email blast to supporters, “but we hope U.S. Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) will consider it.”
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said he won’t be going for Coburn’s speech because he likes his seniority in the House.
“After considerable thought, I have decided not to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014. my seniority, my membership on three major committees, my position as a subcommittee chairman on the Appropriations Committee and my role as a Deputy Whip in the Republican Conference make me much more valuable to Oklahoma and the Fourth District in the House than I could be as a freshman U.S. Senator,” said Cole.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) has also indicated he won’t run.
The race for the open seat might also see a surprise given the wealth of potential candidates in Oklahoma, such as if retired congressmen J.C. Watts or Dan Boren decide to jump back into politics. If Blue Dog Boren decides to stay a Democrat and wins, he would be a reliable swing vote for the GOP on key issues and a thorn in Harry Reid’s side.
Gov. Mary Fallin won’t run, but former Gov. Frank Keating might. Other state politicians are also weighing runs.