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Inhofe’s chief of staff launches bid to replace him

Luke Holland, the longtime aide and chief of staff to Sen. James Inhofe, is running to succeed the veteran Republican lawmaker and has received the senator’s support.

Inhofe, 87, who plans to resign in January, formally backed Holland during a press conference Friday at the Oklahoma History Center, calling him “without question” the best person to replace him.

The senator described the aide as “not just a good friend of mine for a long period of time” but “a very, very knowledgeable person,” characterizing him as integral to his office’s success for several years.

Inhofe signaled this week he would retire at the end of this year, setting up a special election to replace him in November. Inhofe’s term is set to expire in early 2027.

Inhofe, who joined Holland’s campaign launch by phone after testing positive for COVID-19, released a statement through his office calling his planned resignation “bittersweet.” The Oklahoma Republican has served in the Senate since 1994 and previously represented the state in the House. 

“Going into public service was never in my plan. For years, Kay and I were focused on our family and building our business together. Then, one day, I needed a dock permit. I had to visit 27 government offices to get a single dock permit, and realized if we wanted the government to work for the people, not against the people, it was up to us to make a change,” he said.

Inhofe serves as the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and had previous stints leading the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

He maintained during the press conference Friday that “nothing is going to change as far as I’m concerned until almost a year from now.”

Holland has worked in Inhofe’s office for nearly 13 years, serving in a variety of roles before being promoted to chief of staff in February 2017.

The Republican primary to replace Inhofe is expected to draw multiple contenders, with other possible candidates including Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon and former U.S. attorney R. Trent Shores, among others. 

Inhofe told The Oklahoman that he would campaign for Holland ahead of the GOP primary on June 28.

Holland, for his part, cast himself on Friday as a “Jim Inhofe-type of Republican” and sought to portray his candidacy as a continuation of Inhofe’s work, saying, “I can’t think of a single issue we disagree on.”

“As a fourth generation Oklahoman, I know America is the greatest country in the world. It’s a gift from God, and that’s why we must do everything we can to stop the march toward socialism, stand up to China, and get President Trump’s agenda back on track,” Holland wrote on his campaign website.

The website also touted Inhofe’s backing, noting the pair have “worked alongside [each other] for years fighting socialists in Washington, standing up for our freedoms, and working to pass the Trump agenda.”

Holland predicted Friday the Senate race will cost between $4 million and $10 million and indicated he’d hit the campaign trail quickly.

“I’m going to be everywhere all the time, you’re going to get tired of seeing me,” he said.

Updated at 2:15 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump James Inhofe Luke Holland Oklahoma Oklahoma Senate race
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