Woodward, Okla. —
The decision by Coburn, who is battling a recurrence of cancer, to resign the seat two years early has turned a somewhat predictable election year in Oklahoma on its head. The special election will coincide with the regular election cycle in 2014, meaning there will be two U.S. Senate seats on the ballot in Oklahoma as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe seeks re-election.
"A week ago we were talking about a concern for voter intensity. I think this takes care of that," said Dave Weston, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.
It's the first time since 2004 that Oklahoma has had an open Senate seat, and Republicans will be heavily favored to maintain it. Oklahoma has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since David Boren in 1978. Among Democrats expected to consider the race are former Gov. Brad Henry and former Attorney General Drew Edmondson. Telephone messages left Monday for Henry and Edmondson were not immediately returned.
Other Republicans considering running for the open Senate seat are U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Tulsa and state House Speaker T.W. Shannon of Lawton.
"No one can replace Tom Coburn, but someone will succeed him," Shannon said in a statement Monday. "I am praying with my family about whether to enter the race to do just that, and I know the Lord will clearly place on my heart what my assignment is."
Bridenstine spokeswoman Sheryl Kaufman said the first-term congressman is considering a run, "but he's not inclined to make a rushed decision."
Lankford has the advantage of a hefty campaign account. He reported having more than $450,000 in cash on hand at the end of September, the most recent report available, and that money can be used for a Senate campaign. Bridenstine reported having about $180,000 in cash at the end of September.