Thursday, February 24, 2022

Report: U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe to announce retirement on Monday


Sen. Inhofe at a recent Senate hearing.

It is being widely reported this evening that U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe is planning on announcing his retirement from the Senate on Monday (Politico, New York Times).

Inhofe (elected to the U.S. House in 1986 and then the U.S. Senate in 1994) turned 87 in November, and his wife Kay has, evidently, been in poor health in recent years.

Back in December 2019, my Muskogee Politico Insiders Panel discussed the then-uncertainty over Inhofe's 2020 reelection plans. I asked the panelists who they thought would jump into the Senate race should Inhofe retire, and here are some of the names they tossed out back in 2019:

  • U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern
  • U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt
  • Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum
  • OKC Mayor David Holt
  • Former State House Speaker T.W. Shannon
  • Former U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine
  • Former Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb
I think some of those names would still be in the mix today, though Bridenstine and Lamb, and to some extent the mayors, are probably out. Media reports are speculating about Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, State Sen. Pro Tem Greg Treat, Inhofe's chief-of-staff Luke Holland, and former Trump-appointed US Attorney Trent Shores.

And don't forget, Sen. James Lankford has two challengers (State Sen. Nathan Dahm and Tulsa pastor Jackson Lahmeyer) who might opt for the open race rather than the uphill climb against an incumbent.

The last two open Senate races, 2014 and 2004, sparked competitive GOP primaries that primarily coalesced into two-man races (sorry, Bob Anthony 2004), with the eventual Senator clearing the runoff threshold in the primary by a safe margin. I think this year would be a different ballgame.

By making his announcement before March 1st, Inhofe would trigger a special election concurrent with the November general election, rather than an appointee who would hold the seat until the term expires in 2024.

2022 may well turn out to be a wild election year in Oklahoma.


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