WASHINGTON (BP) — Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of the chamber’s most outspoken conservatives, has announced he will retire at the end of the 113th Congress — two years short of the end of his second term.
Rep. James Lankford, a Southern Baptist like Coburn, announced Monday (Jan. 20) he will run for the Republican nomination to the open Senate seat.
Coburn, a physician and a member of First Baptist Church in Muskogee, said he made the decision after “much prayer and consideration.”
“Serving as Oklahoma’s senator has been, and continues to be, one of the great privileges and blessings of my life,” he said in a statement.
The 65-year-old politician has been fighting cancer, but he said his decision is not related to his health. He cited his desire to only remain in Congress for a limited time. “I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere,” he said.
Coburn, who served three terms in the House from 1995 to 2001, is a social conservative known as the Senate’s premiere fiscal hawk who highlights government spending problems in his annual Wastebook.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R.-Ky., called Coburn “one of the most intelligent, principled and decent men” in the recent history of the Senate.
“And when it comes to the transcendent debate over the size and cost of government, Tom Coburn is simply without peer,” McConnell said in a statement. “No one has done more to awaken Americans to the threat posed by a government that chronically spends more than it takes in, and no one has worked harder at finding a solution.”
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, has set a primary election for Coburn’s seat on June 24 and a general election for the final two years of his term on Nov. 4 — the same day Sen. Jim Inhofe, R.-Okla., is up for re-election.
Coburn’s retirement is unlikely to change the balance of power in the Senate, since Oklahoma is a mostly conservative state.
Lankford, in announcing his candidacy in Oklahoma City, said he decided to enter the race after “a great deal of prayer and encouragement.”
Coburn’s hints in recent months of a possible retirement, Lankford said, “gave our family plenty of time to pray and think through a possible run for the Senate.”
“I believe that the conservative solutions that can be proposed and that I’ll bring can help families from every race, every economic background from every town in our country,” Lankford said.
When Coburn announced his retirement Jan. 16, Lankford said in a written statement, “In the three years I have served in the House, I looked to Dr. Coburn as the epitome of a citizen legislator. He kept his eye on the ball and worked relentlessly to bring sanity to government fiscal policy. His leadership and wise counsel will be missed.”
Lankford, a member of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, has ascended quickly in the GOP ranks. In only his second term, he serves in the House of Representatives leadership as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. A graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lankford was program director at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Falls Creek summer camp from 1996 to 2009.
U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R.-Tulsa, and Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R.-Lawton, have signaled they also are considering running to succeed Coburn, The Daily Oklahoman reported.
Based on reports by J.C. Derrick of WORLD News Service and Tom Strode, Baptist Press Washington bureau chief. WORLD News Service is a division of WORLD Magazine (www.worldmag.com) based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.