James Lankford

Sen. James Lankford is shown at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. The Oklahoma State Republican Party will vote on a censure resolution for Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford at its July 17 State Committee Meeting.

NORMAN — In a rare move, the Oklahoma State Republican Party will vote on a censure resolution for Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford at its July 17 State Committee Meeting, according to an agenda obtained by The Transcript.

According to the official agenda — which is not yet public — the censure resolution was introduced by Wayne Hill, chair of the Osage County Republican Party.

Hill and the Oklahoma GOP, which speaks for party chair John Bennett, did not respond to The Transcript’s requests for comment.

The resolution — posted to Facebook Tuesday and added to the agenda later that night — calls for a censure of Lankford and Inhofe because the Oklahoma GOP believes the senators failed former President Donald Trump by not objecting to the electoral college Jan. 6 after the Capitol insurrection.

While Lankford initially announced his intent to object to the results, he changed course and voted to certify them following the insurrection.

“On Jan. 6, 2021, Sen. Lankford, after resuming the interrupted session, publicly rescinded his previous support of reviewing electoral votes integrity before certification,” the resolution reads.

The resolution also claims that both Lankford and Inhofe wrongly blamed Trump supporters for the insurrection, saying that there was “mere circumstantial evidence” to prove it was Trump supporters. Many of the people who stormed the Capitol wore Trump clothing and carried Trump flags and memorabilia.

The timing of the censure resolution is questionable, former and current state GOP members told The Transcript. Bennett recently endorsed and campaigned for Jackson Lahmeyer, Lankford’s primary challenger, in his personal capacity, though he has refused to do so as the Oklahoma GOP chair.

“He’s using everything he has to promote Lahmeyer,” one senior county GOP member said. “I’ve never heard of the [Oklahoma GOP state chair] promoting one conservative candidate over another before the primary.”

Former Oklahoma GOP Chair Chad Alexander said because Bennett publicly embraced Lahameyer, everything he does in the official chair position will be looked at as campaigning for Lahmeyer.

Alexander said it “blows his mind” that a censure vote on Oklahoma’s two sitting senators would be called up at the committee meeting.

“If you were elected at a state party convention on a Saturday with 900 votes, but the sitting incumbent U.S. Senator got hundreds of thousands of votes in the primary, and hundreds of thousands of votes to get reelected twice in the general election, why would you take that position [against them]?” he said. “I don’t understand how you would think James Lankford’s a liberal, and I don’t understand why you would want to divide the party this way.”

The job of the state Republican Party is to support the Republicans that the people of Oklahoma voted into office, not to censure them for not conforming to one version of the Republican party, Alexander said. The former chair said that type of division has no place in the Republican Party.

“There is not one reason that people are in the Republican Party or the Democrat Party,” he said. “There are cultural conservatives, there are national security conservatives and economic conservatives. Just like the Democrat Party, we’re a diverse party.”

Alexander said he believes it’s a violation of party rules for Bennett to openly campaign for a primary challenger of a sitting senator.

According to Alexander, no sitting U.S. senator from Oklahoma has ever been censured by the state Republican Party.

“Doing so would be regrettable,” he said.

Multiple sources inside the GOP said they do not believe Bennett has the votes necessary to censure Inhofe or Lankford come July 17, but Alexander said calling the vote at all is not a good way to run the party.

“If you start with division, you will never bring unity, and if you start with unity, you will never be divided,” he said. “And the job of the state chairman is to unite the party, not divide it.”

Reese Gorman covers COVID-19, local politics and elections for The Transcript. Reach him at rgorman@normantranscript.com or @reeseg_3.

Trending Video

Politics Reporter

Reese Gorman covers politics and the COVID-19 pandemic for The Norman Transcript. He started as an intern in May of 2020 and transitioned into his current position as a staff writer in August of 2020.