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Oklahoma GOP chair backs opponent of Republican senator who voted to certify Biden win

The chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party is supporting a primary challenge to Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).

By Emily Singer - July 06, 2021
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)

Oklahoma Republican Party chair John Bennett is backing a primary challenge to GOP Sen. James Lankford after criticizing Lankford’s decision to vote to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

According to Tulsa World, Bennett told reporters at a June 26 event that Lankford’s vote to certify the election results is “proof that the senator couldn’t keep promises made to constituents.”

Lankford had waffled on his support for blocking certification of Biden’s win.

He at first said in January he was going to vote against certifying Biden’s win, saying he was in favor of creating a “commission” to get “questions” answered about the 2020 election results.

However, the senator changed his mind after the Donald Trump-supporting mob attacked the Capitol in an effort to block the peaceful transition of power — an attack that left five dead and nearly 150 law enforcement officers injured.

“Obviously, the commission that we had asked for is not going to happen at this point. Understand that,” Lankford said. “We are heading towards tonight to the certification of Joe Biden as the president of the United States.”

Lankford also apologized to Black constituents in his state for being part of the effort to overturn Biden’s win in the first place, saying that he “did not realize” that “all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, was seen as casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit.”

Lankford slammed Bennett for supporting his primary challenger.

“It’s more unheard of than it is rare,” Lankford told the Tulsa World. “I’d say it’s highly unusual for a state party chair in any state in America to come out and say, ‘I’m not going to at least be neutral.'”

Lankford isn’t the only Republican Bennett had criticized for not supporting the effort to steal the election for Trump.

In May, Bennett wrote in a Facebook post that it was “unconscionable” that Oklahoma GOP Rep. Stephanie Bice would vote to create an independent and bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection. Bice was one of 35 Republicans to vote for the commission, but she voted against the formation of a select committee to probe the attack.

Ultimately, supporting Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 election based on voter fraud lies has become a major theme for Republican candidates for the 2022 midterm elections.

According to a Washington Post report, one-third of the 700 Republicans running for the House or Senate in 2022 has “embraced Trump’s false claims about his defeat.”

For example, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) — a ringleader of the attempt to block certification of Biden’s victory — is making his effort to steal the election a centerpiece of his bid for Alabama’s open U.S. Senate seat.

As for Lankford, it’s unclear whether his decision not to vote to overturn the election after the events of Jan. 6 will hamper his renomination effort in 2022.

He’s currently facing a challenge from Tulsa pastor Jackson Lahmeyer, who announced a bid in March. Aside from having the support of the Oklahoma Republican Party chair, Lahmeyer also has the endorsement of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who played a prominent role in spreading Trump’s election lies.

Whichever Republican wins the nomination for Oklahoma’s Senate seat would be favored to win, as Trump carried the state by more than 33 points in 2020. The race is rated a “Solid Republican” contest by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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