Inhofe, Lankford split with Coburn over Mullin reelection
WASHINGTON _ Former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn on Wednesday endorsed Jarrin Jackson for his old U.S. House seat against incumbent Rep. Markwayne Mullin, but Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford responded quickly with endorsements of Mullin's reelection bid.
Coburn, a Republican from Muskogee, said, "I am proud to endorse Jarrin Jackson, a combat veteran who understands and has fought for our Constitution. He will stand up for us in Washington and not go along to get along. He also will honor a six-year, self-imposed term limit.”
Jackson and Mullin will square off in the June 28 Republican primary in the 2nd District, which covers a large swath of eastern Oklahoma. Coburn represented the 2nd District from 1995 to 2001, leaving to honor the six-year term limit pledge he had made in his first race.
Coburn made a two-term pledge when he ran for the Senate in 2004. He retired in early 2015, two years before the end of the second term.
In response, Mullin said Wednesday, "I respect Dr. Coburn's sixteen years of service in Washington, D.C. and he has the right to support whoever he wants."
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, who attended an event with Mullin on Wednesday in Tulsa, endorsed him, saying,
"I have served with many members of Congress during my years in the Senate, but few have shown the consistent devotion to conservative values that I have seen from Markwayne Mullin.
"He is a man of great character and integrity who always keeps his word, which is rare in a town like Washington, D.C. I am thankful for Markwayne's service to our state, and I hope my fellow Republicans will join me in supporting him for re-election."
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Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said late Wednesday afternoon, "I have personally seen Markwayne Mullin's unwavering faith, his integrity and his commitment to remain a citizen legislator. Markwayne is unique in Congress, a businessman who has created jobs and knows how to run a successful company.
"He’s a relentless fighter against government regulations, higher taxes, and the unconstitutional executive orders that threaten our freedom. I’m pleased to endorse Congressman Markwayne Mullin. I encourage my fellow Republicans in Oklahoma's Second District to vote for him on June 28th."
Coburn this week also endorsed incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, who made a term limit pledge in 2012 and is running for his third and final term in the 1st District. Bridenstine is being challenged by Tulsa oil company owner Tom Atkinson.
An Inhofe aide said the senator had no plans to endorse a candidate in the 1st District primary.
Jackson, a Republican from Rogers County, is a West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran running for office for the first time.
“Dr. Coburn's endorsement is important because it reinforces his reputation for integrity and courage," Jackson said. "He not only served us with honor when he held office, but he continues to serve by insisting that other public officials do the same. It takes courage to speak truth to power, no matter the truth, no matter the power. I welcome his support, his example, and the opportunity to build upon his work.”
Like Bridenstine, Mullin made a three-term pledge in 2012, meaning this would be his last election if he were to honor the pledge.
When he filed for reelection, Bridenstine said he had done so for the "third and final" time.
Mullin's statement to The Oklahoman around filing time in April was not as clear.
He said, "Our position on this has not changed. However, Christie and I will continue to seek the Lord’s guidance and do what is best for our family and the 2nd District of Oklahoma. The only election I am focused on right now is in 2016.”