Okla. Speaker makes Senate bid official

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon made his bid for Oklahoma Senate official on Wednesday with a three-city tour of the state and a kickoff video that emphasized his faith.

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The Hill first reported on Tuesday that Shannon was planning to jump in the race, after he circulated a release touting the support of 34 Oklahoma business and civic leaders for his exploratory committee, which launched last week.

His entry into the race sets up a Republican primary showdown between Shannon and Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who made his bid official last week. The seat, currently held by retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), is expected to easily stay in Republican hands.

Shannon sits in the pews of the church he attends with his family in the campaign video and talks about how his religious faith has helped guide him on past decisions.

“You know, it’s only right that I’m sitting in this place at such a time,” he says. “Every major event in my life has been decided after spending time in this church, praying, seeking God’s assignment for my life.”

Shannon goes on to declare that, while America is “in crisis,” he’s running for office “because I still believe we are one nation under God and with his favor we can save our country.”

Though Shannon doesn’t mention his opponent in the race, he implicitly sets up a fight for the conservative mantle by pitching the need for “conservative leadership.”

“If conservatives here in Oklahoma and across America will unite and send the right leaders to Washington, we can restore prosperity, we can renew our values and we can reclaim our destiny. With conservative leadership we can fix what’s wrong with our country. I hope you’ll join me,” he says.

Lankford came under fire from conservative groups before even announcing his bid for working with House leadership on issues and voting for past budget deals.

Those conservative groups, however, wanted to see Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) enter the race. He made his decision not to run official this morning, after The Hill first reported Tuesday night he was out.

It’s unclear whether those groups will back Shannon in his bid; some have expressed skepticism about his willingness to work with the Republican establishment. He was named a Republican National Committee “Rising Star,” and has close ties to Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman.