By SEAN MURPHY, Related Press
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford would appear to have all of the conservative credentials he’d must coast to re-election in deep-red Oklahoma.
A religious Baptist, Lankford was the director of the nation’s largest Christian youth camp for greater than a decade. He speaks out recurrently towards abortion and what he describes as extreme authorities spending. And his voting report within the Senate aligned with former President Donald Trump’s place almost 90% of the time.
However like a number of different seemingly secure GOP incumbents, Lankford, who did not even draw a main opponent in 2016, finds himself beneath fierce assault by a challenger in his personal get together. The antagonist is a 29-year-old evangelical minister and political newcomer who managed to attract greater than 2,000 folks to a “Freedom Rally” headlined by Donald Trump’s former Nationwide Safety Advisor Michael Flynn, at which Lankford was accused of being not conservative sufficient.
“When James (Lankford) licensed the large lie, he joined the large lie,” Jackson Lahmeyer informed the raucous crowd in Norman, citing Lankford’s failure to endorse Trump’s false claims concerning the election end result. “The 2020 presidential election — that was a stolen election and we are going to by no means, ever permit it to occur once more.” The state’s GOP chairman, John Bennett, has already endorsed Lahmeyer within the race.
Related scenes are enjoying out in different pink states the place extremely right-wing challengers are tapping into anger amongst Republicans over Trump’s election loss and coronavirus-related lockdowns. Some incumbents all of a sudden are scrambling to defend their proper flank, heating up their very own rhetoric on social media and ripping into President Joe Biden at each alternative.
In Texas, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who faces a contested reelection main subsequent yr, is pushing looser gun legal guidelines than he ever beforehand embraced and proposing unprecedented state actions, together with guarantees to construct extra partitions on the Mexican border.
“I believe it’s unquestionably attributable to the aftermath of the 2020 election and the riot and former President Trump’s claims of voter fraud,” mentioned Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory College in Atlanta.
Some conservative incumbents are apparent targets for right-wing challenges — notably U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney in Wyoming and Anthony Gonzalez in Ohio who voted to question Trump. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s offense was refusing to dam Georgia’s electoral votes from being awarded to Biden.
However with the 2022 election cycle approaching, the backlash can be touching even those that backed Trump persistently by means of numerous controversies. Texas’ Abbott echoed Trump’s partisan positions and has banked $55 million in marketing campaign funds, greater than any sitting governor in historical past.
However he is drawn a problem from Allen West, who till not too long ago was the chairman of the Texas GOP. West, a tea get together firebrand and former Florida congressman, has attacked Abbott’s management after Democrats briefly thwarted a GOP voting invoice by decamping to Washington.
And he can draw a crowd. Final yr, West led a boisterous rally outdoors the governor’s mansion to demand an finish to coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
“We can not sit round and proceed to do nothing,” West informed supporters in South Texas throughout considered one of his first marketing campaign stops.
Really profitable a main might be greater than many challengers, together with West, can count on. However they will achieve pushing the get together farther to the correct whereas additionally elevating their very own profiles as public figures.
Republican officeholders have confronted challenges from the correct previously, however “Trump’s put a unique title and spin to it” this time, mentioned Pat McFerron, a Republican strategist and pollster in Oklahoma.
“As we develop into extra self-selective with the media we eat, folks discover like-minded folks in several social media channels and so they suppose they’re in higher numbers than they’re and really feel they’ve a chance,” he mentioned.
In Arkansas, Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, a two-term incumbent, has drawn a number of GOP challengers, together with the proprietor of a gun vary that drew nationwide consideration for banning Muslims. One other is a former Arkansas Razorbacks soccer participant whose marketing campaign kickoff advert exhibits him firing an assault rifle and complaining that Democrats in Washington have been “taken over by radical socialists.”
Boozman’s opponents have criticized him for certifying the presidential election outcomes. He may additionally draw fireplace as a result of he’s unusually mild-mannered for such a extremely charged time. Whereas he has traditionally centered on the state’s agriculture trade and providers for veterans, he now continuously mentions Trump in his marketing campaign emails and even provided tickets to a Trump rally.
Republican officers in Idaho would normally be thought of among the many farthest proper within the nation, however they, too, are beneath stress. Anti-government activist Ammon Bundy has introduced plans to problem incumbent GOP Gov. Brad Little in 2022, and Bundy’s Folks’s Rights group has been amongst these staging mask-burning rallies to protest coronavirus restrictions.
The anti-incumbent publicity may even be seen in decrease state-level races in blue states. In considered one of Virginia’s most solidly pink state Home districts, an lawyer who labored on the Trump marketing campaign’s challenges defeated a seven-term incumbent in a June main.
“I noticed firsthand what occurs when election integrity isn’t maintained,” challenger Wren Williams mentioned in a marketing campaign advert. Williams criticized Del. Charles Poindexter for failing to talk out towards alleged voter fraud and defeated him by greater than 25 factors.
In Oklahoma, Lankford was jarred by the get together chairman’s endorsement of his opponent, which he mentioned was an “unparalleled” breach of conventional get together neutrality.
In response, he’s shortly ramped up his criticism of Biden, hammering the president specifically on immigration.
“That is the issue,” Lankford mentioned in a latest video from the Texas-Mexico border with immigrants being processed behind him. “That is the factor that Biden doesn’t need you to see … that is completely an open border state of affairs.”
Within the present political local weather, it is arduous for a Republican official to be safely conservative sufficient, mentioned Abramowitz.
“You have a look at Sen. Lankford, there aren’t many Republican senators as conservative as him.”
Related Press writers Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas; Jeff Amy in Atlanta; Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho; Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, and Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.
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