A year makes a difference: James Lankford a leader among freshman conservatives in the U.S. House
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Published: 10-Jun-2011

A year ago, when handicapping the Republican primary (http://www.capitolbeatok.com/CustomContentRetrieve.aspx?ID=3186189) , political observers and even pollsters put at least two hopefuls well ahead of James Lankford, a former church summer camp director. 

He led the primary narrowly, then prevailed easily in the partisan runoff. U.S. Rep. James Lankford, elected eight months ago, took the oath of office as Fifth District congressional representative, just six months ago.

What a difference a year makes. This weekend, Lankford was back in Oklahoma, visiting with constituents in Oklahoma City, touring a power plant in Konowa and meeting with small groups around the metro area. 

Lankford surprised pundits and political professionals with his solid victory in a crowded field full of credible men from both political parties. Now, his role as a freshman member of the resurgent Republican majority in the House of Representatives has thrust him into unexpected leadership roles.

The non-politician of a year ago is the same man as the House Budget Committee member who jousts regularly with Democrats, including President Barack Obama, on spending matters. Last month, he delivered the Republican reply to a presidential address. He was widely quoted for his defense of reforms intended to shift Medicare toward premium support to stave off or avoid an accelerating health care spending crisis.

The computer “nerd” who engineered the most successful use of social media in Oklahoma political history is the chairman of a House subcommittee (an arm of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee). On that panel, he focuses on Tech issues, working with members of both parties to press for federal regulatory and contracting reforms. 

The candidate who campaigned as a totally focused economic conservative is also a cultural conservative. Early in his congressional tenure, he delivered a floor speech on abortion policy that garnered national attention when a video of it circulated on the Internet. On May 17, he joined a “Habitat for Humanity” team to build a home for a low-income family in Oklahoma City. 

Lankford is now a familiar “face” for the young guns in the Republican party, but one who has built relationships with Democrats and others who did not support him. 

The reconfigured Fifth Congressional District in which he will seek reelection next year is little changed from the one that gave him 62.53 percent last year. 

He is widely regarded as a prohibitive favorite for reelection in 2012.

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