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Rep. Lankford jumps into race in Oklahoma for Coburn's Senate seat

| Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
FILE - This Aug. 24, 2010 file photo shows then Oklahoma House candidate, Now. Rep.James Lankford speaking in Oklahoma City. The government shutdown could last for many days or even weeks, congressional insiders say, because politically safe members in both parties feel little pressure to compromise. Recent political trends -- including heavily gerrymandered districts that make many House Democrats and Republicans virtual shoo-ins for re-election -- insulate lawmakers from events and emotions beyond their home regions. Gerrymandering has existed for decades. But election results and lawmakers’ voting patterns show that the House is more sharply divided along party lines than at almost any point in modern times. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Republican Rep. James Lankford on Monday announced his candidacy for the Senate seat left open by Sen. Tom Coburn, who said last week he will resign at the end of this congressional session.

Lankford said that reducing the nation's deficit and long-term debt and pushing for states' rights will continue to be among his top priorities in office.

“Conservatives have increasingly grown more and more frustrated and caustic when we should grow more committed and more focused,” Lankford said to supporters at the Oklahoma History Center. “The problems we face today and the gridlock in Congress will be solved with a clear set of conservative solutions, a commitment to do the work, and a Senate transformation.”

A longtime director of one of the nation's largest Christian youth summer camps, Lankford was a political unknown when he emerged from a crowded Republican primary field in 2010 to win the U.S. House seat. He won re-election in 2012 and was the only member of Oklahoma's House delegation to avoid a GOP primary opponent that year.

Lankford has risen quickly among the GOP leadership in the House and is the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. He landed a spot on the House Budget Committee.

The decision by Coburn, who is battling a recurrence of cancer, to resign the seat two years early has turned a somewhat predictable election year in Oklahoma on its head. The special election will coincide with the regular election cycle in 2014, meaning there will be two Senate seats on the ballot in Oklahoma as Sen. Jim Inhofe seeks re-election.

“A week ago, we were talking about a concern for voter intensity. I think this takes care of that,” said Dave Weston, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

Lankford has the advantage of a hefty campaign account. He reported more than $450,000 in cash on hand at the end of September, the most recent report available, and that can be used for a Senate campaign. Bridenstine had about $180,000 in cash at the end of September.

Lankford declined to say how much he has raised, but the next campaign finance report is due next week.

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