OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A retired Army lieutenant colonel and an Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner both said Tuesday they plan to seek the Republican nomination for the open U.S. House seat being vacated by two-term Republican Rep. James Lankford.
Commissioner Patrice Douglas, 51, announced her candidacy during an event at Oklahoma Christian University, where she said she cast her first vote for former President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. A former attorney, banker, mayor and small businesswoman from Edmond, Douglas said she wanted to "take that business sense to Washington."
Elected mayor of Edmond in 2009, Douglas was appointed in 2011 by Gov. Mary Fallin to fill a vacancy on the state's three-member Corporation Commission, which regulates Oklahoma's utility companies, telecommunications, and the oil and gas industry, among others.
"I'm so excited to have the opportunity to go to Washington and bring that kind of experience with me," Douglas said.
Retired Lt. Col. Steve Russell, 50, a former state senator, also confirmed he would seek the GOP nomination in the 5th Congressional District, which includes nearly all of Oklahoma County, along with Pottawatomie and Seminole counties to the east.
"I am definitely in," Russell told The Associated Press. "Our nation's in peril. And the way I see the outlook currently, if I thought I had any chance to use my skills and leadership to help this country ... it's my duty and moral obligation to try."
Russell represented south Oklahoma City in the state Senate from 2008 to 2012, after a more than 20-year Army career that culminated with the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He wrote the book, "We Got Him," about his unit's role in the hunt for and capture of Saddam Hussein, and has been promoting his book and doing speaking engagements across the country since he left the Senate.
The two announcements are the latest in a series of political dominoes that have fallen since U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn announced last week that he was stepping down with two years remaining on his term. Lankford announced on Monday that he was running to replace Coburn in the Senate.
Lankford could face a Republican primary challenge from Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who said he was praying with his family about whether to run. Shannon's political consultant, Trebor Worthen, told the AP on Tuesday that Shannon planned to establish an "exploratory committee" with the Federal Election Commission. U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, a tea party favorite who knocked off a five-term congressman in 2012, also is considering a U.S. Senate bid. Jason Weger, a paramedic from Norman and political neophyte, said Tuesday he plans to run.
Several prominent Oklahoma Democrats have said they don't plan to run for U.S. Senate, including former U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, former Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, and longtime Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby.
Former Gov. Brad Henry and former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, both Democrats who are expected to consider the race, did not return telephone messages from the AP on Tuesday. Former Democratic state Sen. Kenneth Corn of Poteau said he was considering a run.
In Lankford's 5th District seat, former Republican state Rep. Shane Jett announced Monday he planned to run. Other Republicans considering that U.S. House race are state Sens. Clark Jolley, Greg Treat and David Holt, and state Reps. Paul Wesselhoft and Mike Turner.
On the Democratic side in the 5th District race, retired University of Central Oklahoma professor Tom Guild, who ran unsuccessfully for the post in 2010 and 2012, already has announced his plans to run again, as has retired federal contractor Keith Davenport. Former Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth said he's considering the race.
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy