The 2014 election cycle will be fun in Oklahoma, but it’s 2016 that Oklahoma politicos are already talking about. The good doctor from Muskogee, Senator Tom Coburn, MD, has self term-limited himself to two terms. Therefore, Oklahoma will have an open Senate race in 2016. Since that is also a presidential year (and all 77 counties have gone red the last two presidential cycles) we doubt a Democrat will be competitive. However, we will look at a few Democrat options in a future post (yes, it will include a Boren and a Henry). Today though, we focus on the GOP front-runners.
Let the 2016 Senate sweepstakes begin:
1. Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon– Speaker T.W. Shannon has to be at the top of this list. Not only is he the only black Republican Speaker in the entire country, but he’s a card carrying member of the Chickasaw Nation, is young and attractive. Yes, we said attractive. The women swoon and the men think he’s cool. Furthermore, his family is straight off a Hallmark card. He can raise money quickly, is a great public speaker and proven leader, and counts J.C. Watts and Congressman Tom Cole as mentors. If he runs, he’s the one guy that could maybe clear the field.
2. Attorney General Scott Pruitt– Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt doesn’t lose at the game of chicken. He challenged a former Speaker of the House for Lt. Governor in 2006, a former first lady of Oklahoma for Congress in 2000, and he beat a very qualified candidate for Attorney General in 2010. He won’t be scared of a fight- including one with Shannon. Pruitt is the Chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which has given him a national platform and a national fundraising base. Furthermore, he’s close friends with former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who would play very well in small town Oklahoma if he campaigned with Pruitt. Bottom line- it’s a free shot at the seat for Pruitt, a fact we believe will ultimately push the General into this race.
3. Governor Mary Fallin– She wasn’t a fan of D.C. when she served in Congress. However, she got hitched, and is now happier than ever. So maybe–just maybe–she will take a look at this race. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country, and Republicans at the State Capitol are finally giving conservatives a record to run on. Tax cuts, workers comp reform, and transportation repairs were all wins this session and will play well for years. If she tires of dealing with the slow sausage making process at the State Capitol, however, we see her testing the waters. By the way, her current political campaign record…7-0. Not too shabby.
4. Congressman James Lankford– A year ago we would’ve put Congressman Lankford at the top of this list, even above Speaker Shannon. But at this time, we don’t see Lankford running. Why? It’s pretty simple, he has a great thing going in Congress. Lankford vaulted to the 5th highest ranking member this session with his position as House Policy Chairman. He has powerful Committee assignments too. He’s well respected among his peers, and in a safe congressional seat. He IS the next Paul Ryan, so why give that all up? We say he won’t. TheOkie loves this guy, but his best move may be no move.
5. Someone Tom Coburn Endorses– We aren’t sure Senator Coburn endorses any of the above candidates. They are all politicians, and Coburn likes private sector outsiders. He glows when talking about Sen. Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, for example, because he came from the private sector. If a legitimate candidate presents themselves (and it’s likely) from the private sector, Coburn could endorse and change this race. Coburn isn’t the folk legend he was a few years ago; a few recent votes have damaged his image with the base. However, an endorsement would prove very influential.
There are more names to add, but for now, TheOkie is watching these 5 and you should too.