Oklahoma U.S. Rep. James Lankford took a giant step closer to replacing outgoing Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn with an outright victory in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
Lankford, a high-ranking member of the House GOP caucus, obtained more than 50 percent of the primary vote, avoiding a run-off against state representative T.W. Shannon.
Given the state’s heavy Republican support, Lankford will almost assuredly replace Coburn against a Democratic challenger in November’s special election.
Coburn announced his retirement from the Senate in January and will give up his seat on Jan. 3, 2015, at the end of the 113th Congress.
Lankford’s win deals a blow to the tea party and other groups critical of the GOP establishment who had thrown their weight behind Shannon, the former speaker of the state house. (RELATED: These 9 Photos Prove That Rep. James Lankford Is DEFINITELY NOT A Serial Killer)
While Lankford is largely considered to be a strong conservative, he drew criticism for being too close to House GOP leadership as well as for his support for immigration reform.
But Lankford had a strong backing from religious voters, having won his U.S. House seat in 2010 largely based on a resume that included having been director of Falls Creek, the largest Christian summer camp in the U.S.
Lankford carried a heavy lead after announcing his candidacy. But Shannon came on strong down the stretch after he won a slew of endorsements from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Utah U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, the Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks, and others.
Lankford gained a windfall of sorts late in the campaign. While Coburn abstained from endorsing either man, he did speak out against political ads supportive of Shannon.