The field to replace retiring Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is only beginning to take shape, but some conservative groups are already backing Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who has yet to announce his intentions, and have come out swinging against announced candidate Rep. James Lankford.
Coburn announced last week that he would cut his Senate term short. He is currently battling a recurrence of cancer. Lankford announced he would run for the seat on Monday; Bridenstine has not yet announced a decision.
Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed Bridenstine for re-election to the House last year, calling him “the real deal,” and saying that he would be a top choice for Senate when Coburn retired in 2016. Now that Coburn’s retirement has been moved up, SCF said they would endorse Bridenstine for Senate this year, if he got in the race, in an email this weekend to supporters.
Lankford, on the other hand, would under no circumstances earn their support.
“We won’t support Congressman Lankford’s bid for the Senate because of his past votes to increase the debt limit, raise taxes, and fund Obamacare,” Senate Conservatives Fund executive director Matt Hoskins said in a statement Monday. “We have reviewed his record and it’s clear that conservatives cannot count on him to fight for their principles.”
The Club for Growth was similarly unenthusiastic about Lankford’s record.
“We do not know who will run for Senator Coburn’s seat, but we do know that Senator Coburn has an outstanding 96 percent lifetime score on the Club for Growth’s congressional scorecard and is a champion of economic freedom. On the other hand, Congressman Lankford has a lifetime 78%, which is obviously substantially different from a score in the 90s. We’d love to be able to support a candidate that would mirror Senator Coburn’s pro-taxpayer record,” Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller told The Daily Caller.
The Madison Project, another conservative group, also said they would back Bridenstine if he ran, but trashed Lankford, calling him “another mediocre Republican” and attacking his votes for the Ryan-Murray Budget plan, and his position on immigration.
“Rep. Lankford is a quintessential status quo Republican,” the group wrote in a blog post Monday. “After just two years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Lankford was groomed for a leadership position, serving as the number six-ranking member in the Boehner-Cantor team. Nobody gets into leadership that quickly if they are bent on fighting the power structure in Washington.”
“Lankford is a yes-man for House leadership, and he will be a yes-man for Senate leadership,” the group wrote.
The special election to replace Coburn will be held on the same day as the November midterm elections this year, a favorable arrangement for the Oklahoma Senator, who has fought throughout his tenure to cut wasteful spending of the kind that would be spent on a special election.