It’s rare when both U.S. Senate seats in a state are up for grabs in the same year, but that’s exactly what has happened in Oklahoma this election cycle.
Oklahomans will head to the polls for the June 28 primary for both U.S. Senate seats. If necessary, runoff elections will be held Aug. 23.
Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford is at the end of a six-year term he won in 2016, but his re-election effort has drawn a challenge from the right in Tulsa pastor Jackson Lahmeyer and another Republican. Five Democrats, a Libertarian and an independent have also filed to challenge Lankford.
But it’s the seat that currently belongs to Sen. Jim Inhofe, 87, that could be the year’s most hotly contested race in Oklahoma. In February, Inhofe decided to retire at the end of this year after winning re-election to a fresh term in 2020.
Inhofe’s retirement announcement set off a scramble of eager fellow Republicans wanting to succeed him. Seven Republicans have entered the race so far for Inhofe’s unexpired term. Former Democratic congresswoman Kendra Horn was the only member of her party to file for the seat, giving her a clean shot to challenge the GOP primary winner. An independent candidate and a Libertarian candidate also filed.
Inhofe seat draws a pack of candidates
Republican candidates for Inhofe’s unexpired term include:
- former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon
- current Oklahoma 2nd Congressional District Rep. Markwayne Mullin
- former Trump White House staffer Alex Gray
- current Inhofe chief of staff Luke Holland,
- Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow),
- former Environmental Protection Agency director and former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
Shannon announced his bid in March and previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2014, finishing second to Lankford with 34 percent of the vote in a field of seven candidates.
Mullin was first elected to Congress in 2012 and has been re-elected by wide margins in each election since. His family owns a group of plumbing-related businesses.
Gray served as the chief of staff to the National Security Council during the Trump administration, according to his website. Gray is a Stillwater native who graduated from George Washington University.
Dahm, a software developer, was elected to the Oklahoma Senate’s District 33 seat in 2012. He launched an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2010 and originally declared as a challenger to Lankford before switching to seek the seat vacated by Inhofe.
Holland has been endorsed by Inhofe, appearing in a TV ad in which the 87-year-old touts his staffer as the best person to succeed him. Holland is a Bartlesville native and currently resides in Bixby.
Pruitt was tapped to run the EPA under Trump. He later resigned amid allegations of lavish spending, including a 24-7 security detail and a secure phone booth in his office. Pruitt told the Associated Press on Friday that he was a victim of left-wing media attacks.
“And I made a difference in the face of that,” he told the AP. “I think Oklahomans know when the New York Times and CNN and MSNBC and those places are against you, Oklahomans are for you.”
Seven other GOP candidates with less public service experience have also filed for Inhofe’s Senate seat:
- Adam Holley, a Bixby resident,
- Jessica Jean Garrison, an Owasso resident,
- Laura Moreno, an Edmond resident,
- Michael Coibion, a Bartlesville resident,
- John Tompkins, an Oklahoma City physician,
- Randy Grellner, a Cushing physician, and
- Paul Royse, a Tulsa resident.
On the Democratic, Chickasha native Kendra Horn is making her first bid for U.S. Senate after losing her 5th Congressional District seat to Stephanie Bice in the 2020 general election. Horn upset then-Rep. Steve Russell in 2018 to win that seat.
Cleo Springs resident Ray Woods, who also challenged Inhofe in 2014, has also filed to run as an independent. Libertarian Robert Murphy was one of the last candidates to file for office in Oklahoma on Friday.
Several challenge Lankford
Lankford is running for his second full term in the Senate after being elected in 2014 to a partial term following the retirement of Tom Coburn. Lankford was elected to his first full term in 2016 and serves on the Ethics, Indian Affairs and Appropriations committees.
Lahmeyer, who has been endorsed by disgraced former Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn, is a pastor and businessman who believes Lankford betrayed Trump when Lankford did not back the former president following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Tulsa resident Joan Farr has also filed to run for Lankford’s seat as a Republican.
Sand Springs resident Kenneth Blevins filed to run as a Libertarian.
On the Democratic side, Oklahoma City attorney Jason Bollinger is seeking his party’s nomination. Bollinger grew up in western Oklahoma and is a former U.S. State Department employee.
Cyber security expert Madison Horn, who is not related to Kendra Horn, is also running for the Democratic Party’s nomination. Horn is a Stillwell native who feels called to fight political extremism, according to her website.
Norman resident Arya Azma, Bartlesville resident Brandon Wade and Tulsans Dennis Baker and Jo Glenn round out the Democratic field seeking to challenge Lankford.
Independent Michael Delaney launched his bid for Senate on Thursday. Delaney said on his campaign website that’s it’s time for Oklahomans to break the party chains.