While incumbent U.S. Sen. James Lankford has the money, name recognition and support to be well positioned to win reelection this year, it won’t come without turbulence along the way.
Lankford, who is being challenged by Tulsa area pastor and businessman Jackson Lahmeyer from the right in Tuesday’s Republican primary, is comfortably ahead of his opponent, according to the most recent polling on the race.
But Lahmeyer’s candidacy has opened the door for criticism of Lankford from the right, and on Saturday the Associated Press revealed details of a 2010 deposition Lankford gave for a lawsuit regarding a sexual encounter between a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old. In the deposition, an attorney asked Lankford whether children of those ages can consent to have sex.
“Yes, I think they can,” said Lankford, who had been elected to Congress a week earlier.
The attorney deposing Lankford did not specifically couch the question as asking for a legal opinion about the age of consent in Oklahoma, which is 16. In his article, Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy noted such details.
“Although there is an exception in the law for minors between the ages of 14 and 17 who have sexual contact, there is no provision under which a 13-year-old could consent to sex,” Murphy wrote. “It’s unclear whether Lankford, who has no formal legal training, was aware of the legal age of consent at the time of his deposition.”
A Lankford spokesperson declined to comment for the AP story.
Lahmeyer calls Lankford ‘an absolute coward’
For most of his 2022 U.S. Senate campaign, Lahmeyer has focused heavily on the 2020 presidential election, often espousing debunked claims on topics such as alleged voter fraud.
Despite initial skepticism over the results, Lankford has said publicly that President Joe Biden won the election, which is tantamount to heresy among some of former President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters. Lahmeyer has attacked Lankford on that, as well as his ties to GOP establishment figures such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“I know Donald Trump won the 2020 election,” Lahmeyer said last summer. “You’re going to try to actually say, ‘Joe Biden got 80 million votes’? Nobody honestly believes that.”
Lahmeyer also said Lankford, who was present in the U.S. Senate during the violent Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters at the Capitol, is a coward.
“On Jan. 6, I saw fear grip my senator and he caved like an absolute coward,” Lahmeyer said at a rally last year.
And some other far right figures in Oklahoma have taken shots at Lankford as well. Former Oklahoma GOP chairman and American flag shirt enthusiast John Bennett took the unusual step of endorsing Lahmeyer over the incumbent Republican senator while still serving as state chairman.
“The good ol’ boy politics days are over,” Bennett told The Oklahoman last year. “I’m here for one reason, one reason only, and that is to do the job that the people elected me to do — and that is to stand and fight for our constitutional republic and to get rid of those that refuse to do it.”
In response, Lankford, who voted with the Trump administration more than 90 percent of the time, has mostly avoided engaging his opponent and has refused to debate Lahmeyer.
“I don’t have any intention of being able to jump up and give him free air time,” Lankford told The Oklahoman earlier this year.
And Lankford has stepped in some holes of his own. Before Lankford angered some Trump supporters for accepting the results of the 2020 election, members of Oklahoma’s Black community criticized him for initially disputing the results prior to the events of Jan. 6. Some saw Lankford’s skepticism as an attack on historic Black turnout in the election. Amid calls for his resignation from the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, he issued a statement apologizing.
In Tuesday’s GOP primary, Lankford, Lahmeyer and Joan Farr will appear on Republican ballots. Farr is also running for the GOP nomination in a U.S. Senate election in Kansas, a simultaneous candidacy that is not prohibited by federal law.
The winner of the Republican nomination will face the winner of a six-way Democratic primary among Jason Bolinger, Madison Horn, Arya Azma, Brandon Wade, Dennis Baker and Jo Glenn.
Libertarian Kenneth Blevins and independent Michael Delaney will also be on the November ballot.
Platform: Farr has run for political office several times before. In 2010, she ran for governor of Kansas. After moving to Tulsa in 2013, she ran for U.S. Senate in 2014. She ran as an independent against U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe in 2020, receiving 1.4 percent of the vote.
Farr has had a myriad of job experiences, from serving as a purchasing agent for Boeing to a traffic investigator for the Wichita Police Department. If elected, Farr promises to file mass lawsuits to end the pandemic, pay off a “fraudulent” $140,000 IRS debt, ensure her father receives the Medal of Honor, remove innocent Americans from the terrorist watch list and overhaul the legal system.
Platform: Lahmeyer is a proud devotee of Donald Trump, who he frequently mentions on his website and on social media. While it’s unknown if Trump has personally endorsed Lahmeyer, he has been endorsed by several Trump acolytes including disgraced former U.S. Army general Mike Flynn and serial provocateur Roger Stone
If elected, Lahmeyer said he will work to make sure the first and second amendments are protected because of what he calls an all out assault by the left on both.
“If we lose the 2nd Amendment, we will lose the 1st Amendment which is what the radical left is truly after,” Lahmeyer wrote on his website. “We must also teach American exceptionalism in our households and in our schools so the next generation discovers our nation’s greatness.”
Lahmeyer has also attacked Lankford for suggesting the 2020 election wasn’t stolen from Trump.
“He gave us his word he would object to certifying fraud on January 6th, but when the day came that we needed him most, Lankford flip-flopped like a fish out of water and caved like a coward to certify a lie,” wrote on his website.
Lahmeyer would also work to fight establishment GOP figures like Mitch McConnell who he has said is a globalist. Lahmeyer said he will fight for an “America First” agenda that he believes should also be taught in homes and schools to show future generations America’s true greatness.
“I will always serve to put America First, not foreign powers looking to dismantle the United States from within,” he said on his website. “Make no mistake, there is a GOP civil war underway, with Mitch McConnell at the establishment helm, and President Trump leading the America First movement. While Lankford has routinely sided with Mitch, betraying our values and President Trump, I will always be a fierce champion of Trump’s America First policies.”
Lahmeyer has also vowed to fight against green energy and renewables if elected. He said he believes those forms of energy are a threat to Oklahoma.
“Their Green New Deal would not only destroy our energy sector, it would forever stunt America’s ability to be energy independent,” he wrote. “I will be a fighter for the America-First policy of American energy independence, and work to dismantle the radical left’s energy policies that destroy Oklahoma jobs and threaten our industries.”
James Lankford (Incumbent)
Platform: If re-elected, Lankford has promised to continue to look for and eliminate government waste which he says is ever present. He also voted for the Trump administration era tax cuts in 2017 that he said doubled the standard deduction and lowered income taxes for some middle class Americans.
“Every wasted tax dollar is a dollar taken away from your family or your business,” Lankford said on his website. “Washington, DC is not a better steward of your money. Every tax dollar should be spent wisely for a constitutional purpose.”
On energy, Lankford has promoted use of fossil fuels over the use of renewables like wind and solar. He has also criticized Biden administration policies he said are holding back exploration and leading to high gas prices at the pump.
“Currently the Biden Administration’s saying this is all Putin’s fault and we know that’s just factually not true,” Lankford said in April. “The price of gasoline rose from the day that President Biden came into office until the beginning of the war in Ukraine a dollar a gallon—a dollar during that time period. How did that happen? Was that because of oil companies, as over in the House of Representatives, they’re dragging in oil company executives and saying, ‘You’re gouging prices’?”
Lankford has also criticized federal regulations for farmer’s and ranchers which he believes discourage people from operating those kinds of businesses.
“Federal burdens like fuel tank storage restrictions, the endangered species act, grain storage inspections on family farms, interstate farm truck rules, dust particulate regulations and youth labor restrictions show an arrogance of power from Washington, D.C.,” he wrote on his website.
Lankford has also waded into social issues championed in the GOP including critical race theory which he said must not be taught in schools. He has vowed to vote against any federal funding that might be used to promote it in schools.
“We should and must teach the history of our nation and work toward genuine racial reconciliation, but the ideology of critical race theory is not the solution,” he said last year.
Platform: Arya Azma is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was raised by Iranian immigrants in Norman. On his website, he lists a variety of issues, including boosting infrastructure and increasing funding for public education and positioning America to compete better in the world economy, specifically against trade rival China.
Platform: Born in Claremore and raised in Okmulgee and Sapulpa, Baker says online that he is running to establish living wages, increase funding for public schools and create an environment where health care and higher education are accessible to more people than they are today.
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Platform: Bollinger graduated high school in Elk City and earned a juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. A former U.S. State Department staff member, he owns his own law firm in Oklahoma City.
In April, Bollinger filed a formal challenge to Horn’s candidacy in an attempt to remove her from the ballot, but he failed. Bollinger’s platform includes expanding access to health care, improving infrastructure and creating a government that better reflects the will of voters.
Platform: If elected, Glenn states online that she would work to restore abortion access to American women after the U.S. Supreme Court decision made abortion a state-by-state policy choice earlier this month. Glenn would also work to increase the minimum wage and develop common-sense gun reform with the aim of decreasing the wave of mass shootings currently prevalent in the U.S. Glenn would also attempt to improve tribal relations with the federal and state governments.
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Platform: Horn grew up in Stillwell on a farm and is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She works in cybersecurity for Siemens Energy, according to her LinkedIn profile.
If elected, Horn states she would work to improve education by investing more in teachers. She also would work to improve voting security and expand access to health care. Horn states she wants to eliminate wasteful spending in government while developing economic policies that are more ideal for the modern world.
Platform: Wade writes that he believes health care is a human right and would work to expand access to anyone who needs it. Wade would also encourage cooperation between oil and gas companies and the federal government in an effort to encourage private industry to invest in long-term clean energy solutions. Wade also supports the legalization of marijuana.