OKLAHOMA CITY —
Oklahoma’s Republican House Speaker T.W. Shannon told colleagues Tuesday that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated early by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn but remain speaker “for the time being.”
In an email to GOP House members that was obtained by The Associated Press, Shannon wrote that he would announce his run on Wednesday.
“I want you to know that I will remain Speaker for the time being. I am not stepping down immediately because I want to ensure a smooth transition that does not disrupt the important business of the state, nor distract from the legislative goals of our caucus,” Shannon wrote.
An official with Shannon’s campaign confirmed the authenticity of the email but declined to speak on the record ahead of the formal announcement.
Shannon, 35, from Lawton, joins two-term U.S. Rep. James Lankford of Edmond in the race for the Republican nomination for state’s first open Senate seat since Coburn was elected in 2004. Republican Jason Weger, a 31-year-old paramedic from Norman, also says he will run, and U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Tulsa says he’s considering it.
Oklahoma has not elected a Democrat to an open U.S. Senate seat since David Boren in 1978, and Republicans will be heavily favored to maintain it. No Democrats have formally announced their candidacy.
A member of the Chickasaw Nation, Shannon was the first African-American and the youngest speaker of the Oklahoma House when he was elected last year. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus last year called Shannon a “rising star” within the GOP, and Shannon has participated in several RNC-sponsored events across the country.
Shannon, who previously worked as congressional field director for former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts and current U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, was first elected to the Oklahoma House in 2006. He was the first Republican to represent District 62, which includes the west side of Lawton, the state’s fifth-largest city.