Crowded primary likely in race for Coburn seat

Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) announcement late Thursday night that he would resign at the end of the current Congress is sure to set off a scramble to succeed him — and many of the state’s current GOP congressmen could be in the pack.

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With a rare open seat, several in the Oklahoma delegation are expected to look seriously at running in the special election, likely to be timed to coincide with the state’s regular election schedule — a June 24 primary and subsequent Aug. 26 runoff before the November general election.

That won’t leave much time to put together a costly statewide campaign, and based on their current campaign coffers, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) would have the early money edge. The former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman and close ally of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had more than $1 million in his House campaign account at the end of September, nearly double that of other members.

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the dean of the delegation, was in second-best shape with nearly $576,000 cash on hand at the end of the third quarter. Sophomore Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) had just under $454,000 in his account during the same period.

Freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), who upset incumbent John Sullivan in the 2012 GOP primary, finds himself the furthest behind in the cash race if he wants a quick promotion — he had just under $183,000 in the bank at the end of September. Bridenstine is a favorite of Tea Party groups though, and he could make up the difference with help from outside groups.

Possible candidates to succeed Coburn likely won't be limited just to congressmen. Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) is also mentioned as a likely candidate, but he would start at a cash disadvantage too. According to Oklahoma campaign finance reports, his reelection committee has just $123,000 in its account.