Oklahoma Senate: Seeking to follow Tom Coburn, James Lankford emphasizes ‘debt, debt, debt’

OKLAHOMA CITY — “America is not a nation in decline, it is a nation in denial. Many Americans refuse to acknowledge the consequences of federal over reach, the accelerating debt and our faltering work ethic.

“When we address these issues, we will find that our foundation of free enterprise still remains the greatest economic engine in the world,” said U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, in a recent exchange with this writer.

Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, is deemed the front-runner in the Republican U.S. Senate primary to replace Tom Coburn, who is leaving two years before the end of his term.

Elected to the U.S. House in 2010 in a dramatic upset, after serving two decades as a Baptist youth camp counselor, Lankford quickly emerged as a leading conservative voice in Congress.

He is now the fifth-ranking Republican in the lower chamber, leading some analysts to wonder – and his leading opponent, former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, to hope – if he might suffer the same fate as U.S. House Majority leader Eric Cantor, who lost a primary challenge in Virginia last week.

In his interview with CapitolBeatOK, Lankford did not run away from his job in leadership. His focus remains, as it was in that campaign four years ago, “debt, debt, debt.”

He reflected, “For the past three years, I have served on the U.S. House Budget Committee where I laid out a plan to resolve our crushing budget deficit.

“In 2011, our nation overspent $1.4 trillion in a single year. With very difficult work, we have cut our deficit dramatically to $550 billion. This is an improvement, but it is still way too high.

“There is no quick fix to our debt, it will be a multi-year process. But, we must lay out a vision and have the tenacity to stick to the plan. Our nation’s debt affects each of our take home pay, our military and military veterans, and our prestige in the world.”

Rep. Lankford faces former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, and four others in the June 24 primary.

Making the case for his election, Lankford said, “I have worked on exposing the waste in government and the frustrating lack of basic government efficiency. 

Government waste is not a ‘red or blue’ issue; every federal employee sees the waste and they know how we could do things better. The problem is not noticing the waste, it is eliminating it.

“It will take experience and the wisdom that can only come from managing federal issues, to make lasting changes. Before Dr. Coburn or Jim Inhofe were elected to the Senate, they served in the US House of Representatives. Their US House experience made them better legislators and gave them an immediate advantage in the Senate.

“After working with families and teenagers for 22 years, it has been an honor to continue to serve Oklahoma families in Congress. Though the work in Congress is frustrating and slow, it is essential that we keep our focus on the current problems of our day and the future struggles for our children. This is a moment to set the pace for work ethic and challenge the next generation to engage in the greatest country in the world.”

If no Republican receives a majority of the votes cast in the primary, the nominee will be selected in an August primary. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Connie Johnson of Oklahoma City is the front-runner.
You may contact Pat at pmcguigan@watchdog.org . Portions of the interview with Lankford also are published in tomorrow’s edition of The City Sentinel, a community newspaper in Oklahoma City.