Jan. 20--Two of the lending contenders to succeed U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn withdrew from consideration within five minutes of each other Sunday night amid reports that 5th District Congressman James Lankford will soon announce his candidacy.
Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole and state Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued separate statements saying they could better serve the state by remaining in their current positions.
Meanwhile, The Oklahoman reported that Lankford could officially enter the race as soon as Monday.
Coburn, Cole, Pruitt and Lankford are all Republicans, as is the entire state congressional delegation.
"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," Cole said in his statement.
Pruitt said in his statement that "Oklahomans elected me attorney general to fight to restore the proper balance between the federal and state government, and I have."
"From the very first day I held elected office, I had one vision in mind: to fight for the principles and ideals of our nation's founding."
Pruitt continued: "At present, my choice is clear: It is serving as Oklahoma's Attorney General, where I can continue to lead the fight for the preservation of our freedoms and constitutional system."
Original headline: Lankford set to run for Senate seat being vacated by Coburn
Coburn's announcement on Thursday that he will leave the Senate at the end of the current session in December, with two years remaining in his term, caused considerable upheaval in what has shaped up as an otherwise uneventful election year.
The decision means a special election, running concurrently with 2014's regularly scheduled elections, will decide who completes Coburn's unexpired term.
Another potential Republican candidate, 1st District Congressman Jim Bridenstine, was in South Carolina over the weekend speaking to a tea party convention.
Bridenstine has ties to former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and, if he decides to run for Senate, is expected to receive support from the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Heritage Foundation, Heritage Action and other organizations within the Koch brothers' political network.
The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C., reported Saturday that the Club for Growth, another organization within the Koch brothers' realm, would not endorse Lankford or Cole but was more favorable to Bridenstine.
The Hill also said Coburn is expected to endorse Lankford.
While in Tulsa on Friday, Lankford declined to comment on his interest in the Senate job. Speaking to the Tulsa Republican Club, he said the GOP has been more successful curbing spending than is generally recognized and said the two parties should be willing to accept small victories instead of antagonizing each other into certain defeats.
Democrats, meanwhile, continue to look for a candidate who is capable of working an upset. Oklahoma has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since David Boren in 1990. One name to surface Sunday is that of Chickasaw Chief Bill Anoatubby.
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
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