Woodward, Okla. — OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford announced his candidacy Monday for the U.S. Senate seat left open by Sen. Tom Coburn who said last week he would resign the post at the end of this congressional session.
Lankford said Monday that reducing the nation's deficit and long-term debt and pushing for states' rights will continue to be among his top priorities in office.
"Conservatives have increasingly grown more and more frustrated and caustic when we should grow more committed and more focused," Lankford said to a group of supporters during a press conference at the Oklahoma History Center. "The problems we face today and the gridlock in Congress will be solved with a clear set of conservative solutions, a commitment to do the work, and a Senate transformation."
A longtime director of one of the nation's largest Christian youth summer camps, Lankford was a political unknown when he emerged from a crowded Republican primary field in 2010 to win the U.S. House seat. He won re-election in 2012 and was the only member of Oklahoma's House delegation to not face a GOP primary opponent that year.
Lankford also has risen quickly among the GOP leadership in the House, and is currently the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. He also landed a spot on the House budget committee.
But he also drew criticism from the Virginia-based Senate Conservatives Fund, which said in a statement Monday that it would not support Lankford in a GOP primary because of his votes on increases to the debt limit and a recent bipartisan budget bill.
"We have reviewed his record and it's clear that conservatives cannot count on him to fight for their principles," the group's executive director, Matt Hoskins, said in a statement.