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Oklahoma’s House Speaker, T.W. Shannon, running for U.S. Senate

As Shannon gets in, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine says he won’t run to replace Tom Coburn

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

oklahoma mugOKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon is running for his state’s open U.S. Senate seat, setting up a Republican primary between two rising GOP stars in the Sooner State.

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon

“As bad as things are right now, I have great hope for our future,” Shannon said in a YouTube video announcing his candidacy January 29. “If conservatives here in Oklahoma and across America will unite and send the right leaders to Washington, we can restore prosperity.”

Meanwhile, as Shannon got in to the race, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Tulsa, a Tea Party favorite, announced that he would not run in a special election to fill the seat that U.S. Senator Tom Coburn plans to vacate at the end of the year.

That sets up a primary race between Shannon and U.S. Rep. James Lankford, a member of the House leadership. Given Oklahoma’s strong Republican tendencies, the winner of the primary is a prohibitive favorite to capture the seat in November.

Shannon, 35, from Lawton, is an African-American and also an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation. A one-time aide to former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, Shannon rocketed to prominence in state politics, becoming speaker just six years after being elected in 2006.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

Lankford, 45, who represents much of metro Oklahoma City in the House, is likewise a man in a hurry. In just his second term in Congress, he was elected head of the House Republican Policy Committee, the fifth highest position in the House GOP leadership.

He also has a coveted seat on the influential House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee.

However, that insider resume has drawn fire from some Tea Party and conservative groups who had been urging Bridenstine to get into the race.

Bridenstein issued a statement January 29 saying that while he was “honored and overwhelmed by encouragement to succeed” Coburn, he decided not to make the race.

The winner of November’s special election will complete the final two years of Coburn’s term. The veteran senator, who has been battling a recurrence of prostate cancer, announced January 17 that he would step down at the end of the current Congress.

View Shannon’s announcement video:

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