The PJ Tatler

Lankford: Oklahoma Senate Primary Wasn't About Tea Party vs. Establishment

The Oklahoma congressman who beat out a challenger with heavy Tea Party backing in the race to serve the remainder of Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) term said the election wasn’t a matter of establishment versus Tea Party.

Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) cruised to victory Tuesday night and avoided a runoff with 57.2 percent of the vote in a field of seven GOP hopefuls that included former Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, who pulled in 34.4 percent of the vote.

The Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed Shannon back in March, calling him “a constitutional conservative who will fight to stop the massive spending and debt that are bankrupting our country.” Before the primary, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) starred in a TV ad for the SCF, saying, “On June 24th, let’s make D.C. listen, and vote T.W. Shannon for U.S. Senate.”

“It’s not really much of a battle of the Tea Party versus the establishment. When you come to Oklahoma, you got seven Republicans, primary folks in that challenge, and all of us in any other state in America would have been listed as the conservative voice that’s out there. It’s a very conservative primary, very conservative state,” Lankford told Fox Business on Wednesday.

Lankford, 46, who directed a Baptist camp before coming to Congress in 2011, has been flagged as one of the up-and-comers on the Hill, and was a leading party voice in the media during the government shutdown.

“When you talk about national Tea Party groups — I hear that all the time, national Tea Party groups — which to me is a complete oxymoron — you can’t have anything called ‘national Tea Party groups.’ By definition, it is grass roots, and if it’s not grass roots, it’s not. It’s just claiming the title of that,” he said. “So the grass roots that are actually involved in Oklahoma think very different than the national folks, and what we found out is the grass roots in Oklahoma doesn’t like people from outside of Oklahoma to come in and tell them who to vote for.”

Shannon’s outside endorsements, in addition to Cruz, included Sarah Palin.

“The seven of us that ran in this race remained as friends at the end, and that was very important to us, as well, that it doesn’t become so divisive that somehow, it splits us all up for the battle in November. We’re all very united. We’ve had the opportunity to be able to talk since that — since the election last night. Everyone’s very, very on track and on board together. We started as friends, we’re going to end as friends,” Lankford said.