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Thad Cochran survives Mississippi Senate runoff

In Oklahoma, U.S. Rep. James Lankford wins Republican nomination for open U.S. Senate seat

mississippi mugJACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — Buoyed by an influx of support from Democratic and independent voters, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran has turned back a bitter GOP primary challenge in Mississippi, defeating State Senator Chris McDaniel.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

Cochran, 76, took 51 percent of the vote in the June 24 runoff, compared to 49 percent for McDaniel. The runoff was triggered when neither man captured a majority in the first round of voting June 3.

“We all have the right to be proud of our state tonight,” Cochran told his jubilant supporters. “Thank you for this wonderful honor and wonderful challenge that lies ahead.”

But a clearly unhappy McDaniel refused to concede, criticizing Cochran’s campaign for appealing to black and Democratic voters in order to win the primary and stay in office.

“There is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats,” McDaniel said. “So much for principle.”

Cochran will now face former Democratic U.S. Rep. Travis Childers in November’s general election.

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, U.S. Rep. James Lankford has captured the Republican nomination for the Sooner State’s open U.S. Senate seat, defeating former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon.

Lankford took 57 percent of the vote, compared to 34 for Shannon, with five other Republican candidates trailing the front-runners.

Given Oklahoma’s pronounced Republican tendencies, Lankford will be the heavy favorite in November’s general election. The Democrats will decide an August 26 runoff between State Senator Connie Johnson from Oklahoma City and retired teacher Jim Rogers.

The Oklahoma seat opened up when U.S. Senator Tom Coburn announced he would retire at the end of this year due to health issues.

The race in Mississippi pitted Cochran and the state’s Republican establishment against Tea Party activists and outside conservative groups — such as the Senate Conservatives FundFreedomWorks and the Club for Growth — that strongly backed McDaniel.

Outside groups on both sides poured millions in advertising into the Magnolia State, clogging its relatively inexpensive airwaves.

After trailing McDaniel in the first round of voting, Cochran’s campaign began making appeals to Democratic and independent voters who did not vote in the GOP primary in the first round.

That is legal in Mississippi, as long as those voters didn’t already vote in the Democratic primary.

The results of the second round of voting showed how well that strategy worked. About 67,000 more people voted in the runoff than in the primary, and in Hinds County — which includes the predominantly black city of Jackson — Cochran’s margin of victory was 11,000 votes, nearly double what it was in the first round.

Cochran is one of five sitting Southern GOP senators targeted for defeat by outside conservative groups. So far, incumbents have survived primaries in Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina  and Mississippi, with one contest still to come in August in Tennessee.

Cochran’s victory is bad news for Democrats, who were rooting for a McDaniel victory to have an outside shot at capturing a Senate seat in deeply Republican Mississippi.

Childers was elected to the U.S. House from Mississippi in 2008 but lost his seat in the Republican wave of 2010. He got into the race when it appreared Cochran might lose, which could have given Democrats an opening against a more conservative candidate running statewide for the first time.

In the closing days of the race, Cochran and his allies told voters that nominating McDaniel, an outspoken radio talk show host, was too risky.

The GOP Senate primary in Oklahoma came down to a battle between two of the party’s fastest rising stars.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

Lankford, 45, represents much of metro Oklahoma City in the House, 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.

That insider resume drew fire from some Tea Party and conservative groups who rallied around Shannon, 35, from Lawton, an African-American who is 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.

Senate Conservatives Fund backs T.W. Shannon in Oklahoma Senate race

Conservative group is now backing GOP primary candidates in five Southern states

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com

oklahoma mugOKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon has picked up an endorsement from the Senate Conservatives Fund in his Republican U.S. Senate primary battle with U.S. Rep. James Lankford.

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon

Former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon

Matt Hoskins, the SCF’s executive director, says his group is backing Shannon because he “is a constitutional conservative who will fight to stop the massive spending and debt that are bankrupting our country.”

“Shannon believes in the principles of freedom that make this country great and will stand up to the big spenders in both parties to balance the budget and stop Obamacare,” Hoskins says.

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, represents much of metro Oklahoma City in the House, 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.

That insider resume has drawn fire from some Tea Party and conservative groups who have been rallying around Shannon as a challenger.

However, Shannon will have competition for the Tea Party vote from former State Senator Randy Brogdon, who jumped out of Oklahoma’s governor’s race and into the Senate race after U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn announced he would resign at the end of the year.

Brogdon has announced that if elected, he will vote to topple Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The SCF is backing McConnell’s primary challenger in Kentucky, Matt Bevin.

In addition to Oklahoma and Kentucky, the SCF is backing candidates in Republican Senate primaries in Mississippi and Louisiana.

There are four other Republican’s in the race for Coburn’s seat: Kevin Crow, Eric McCray, Evelyn Rogers and Jason Weger.

Given the Sooner State’s strong Republican tilt, the GOP nominee will be the prohibitive favorite in November. The lone Democrat is the race is former State Senator Kenneth Corn, his party’s unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010.

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, Chickenfriedpolitics.com 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:

Oklahoma Senate race takes shape, as U.S. Rep. James Lankford gets in

Lankford, a Baptist pastor and rising star in the GOP leadership, is already drawing flack from conservative activists

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

oklahoma mugOKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Oklahoma Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Tom Coburn, getting into a race that’s shaping up as a battle between the GOP establishment and its Tea Party wing.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

Lankford, 45, a Baptist pastor who was first elected to represent the state’s 5th District — based in and around Oklahoma City — in 2010, says he feels “a clear calling” to seek higher office.

“The Senate is currently the most contentious body in our government,” Lankford said in a YouTube video announcing his Senate bid. “I want to continue to bring Oklahoma common sense and solutions to a place that needs both.”

In just his second term in Congress, Lankford was elected as chair of the House Republican Policy Committee, the fifth highest position in the House 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 is already drawing fire from Senate Conservatives Fund, an activist group that has angered Senate GOP leaders by backing Tea Party insurgents trying to topple incumbents.

“We have reviewed his record, and it’s clear that conservatives cannot count on him to fight for their principles,” said Matt Hoskins, the group’s executive director, in a statement.

The group is critical of Lankford for his support of the recent bi-partisan budget deal, designed to avoid a government shutdown, as well as his votes to increase the federal debt limit. He’s also being criticized for a comment he made last summer that he “wouldn’t prohibit forever” illegal immigrants working their way to legal status.

The SCF is pushing instead for first-term U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Tulsa to run for Coburn’s seat. Bridenstine, a Tea Party favorite, made headlines last year after he voted against the re-election of Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

Bridenstine has said he is considering the race but has not announced a decision.

Two other Republicans mentioned as possible candidates for Coburn’s seat, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, have said they will not run.

Coburn, 65, who is battling prostate cancer, announced January 17 that he would leave office at the end of the year, triggering a special election for the remaining two years of his term.

View Lankford’s announcement statement:

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