TULSA, Okla. – A brisk Oklahoma breeze and cheap campaign supplies set Republican U.S. Senate candidate T.W. Shannon up for a solid campaign punchline at the opening of his Tulsa campaign office on Tax Day, April 15.
“You can see that the name tags we have aren’t very good ones because we need more money for this campaign,” said Shannon, a state representative, eliciting laughter and maybe donations from a crowd of about 60.
Many in the crowd were seen chasing their campaign-issued name tags around the office parking lot. The pesky Tulsa wind affected another campaign prop too, occasionally knocking over a small sign with three photos on it: one of Shannon, the others of two of his most prominent endorsers, Sarah Palin and talk radio host Mark Levin.
Shannon, elected to the Oklahoma House in 2006, is running to replace U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.
Shannon, who was named a “Rising Star” last year by the Republican National Committee, is viewed as the tea party candidate. His main opponent in the Republican primary — the only race that matters in this reddest of states — 46 year-old Congressman James Lankford.
So far, Shannon has the support of conservative heavyweights. Besides Palin and Levin, this group includes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, the Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks and RedState’s Erick Erickson.
Shannon also has the Republican political operative Fount Holland, who runs AH Strategies. The communications director for then-Congressman Coburn in the 1990s, Holland has focused on putting candidates into state House and Senate races. In 2004 he helped orchestrate a GOP takeover of the Oklahoma legislature, which had until then been controlled by Democrats. Trebor Worthen, of AH Strategies, is Shannon’s campaign manager.
“He’s got the machine behind him in which to be able then run a successful campaign with the limited amount of time Dr. Coburn gave us all,” Bill Shapard, who runs Sooner Polling, an independent polling firm, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. He added that he expected 2014 to be an otherwise sleepy political year in Oklahoma.
Shannon, who, along with his wife Devon, operates the consulting firm Shannon Strategies, once worked for U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, with whom Shannon shares Chickasaw heritage. He also worked for former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, the first black Republican from south of the Mason Dixon line elected to the House since Reconstruction.
For his part, Shannon was the first black Republican lawmaker to attain the position of Speaker in any state house. And if he wins in June and in the general election in November, he’ll be the first Southern black Republican since Reconstruction to win a Senate election.
“My heritage is part of who I am,” Shannon told TheDNCF when asked about the significance of such milestones. “But it’s not the way I define myself or see the world.”
“I’m an American first, and just like everybody else, Americans are concerned about a Washington D.C. establishment that refuses to listen.”