Update 2/25/22: Sen. Inhofe plans to hold a news conference at 12 p.m. KFOR will carry it live on air and online.
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The rumor mill is in overdrive after reports surfaced that Oklahoma’s senior U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe will be stepping down as soon as next week.
While KFOR has not been able to independently verify the rumors, the New York Times and Politico report Inhofe will announce his retirement next week but that he will remain in office until the end of the year.
“If Jim Inhofe does make an announcement that he will be leaving the US Senate early, it’s going to be a domino effect,” said Todd Lamb, Flashpoint’s political analyst and former Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor. “There were rumors this past week that he was going to retire and step away early from the Senate. To Be Determined if he’s going to retire and vacate immediately or if he will retire/resign to a date certain.”
“It’s not like Senate seats open every day,” said Dr. Tyler Johnson, an associate political science professor at the University of Oklahoma.
Sen. Inhofe was just elected to another six year term back in 2020.
Oklahoma Senate Bill 959, which was signed into law by Governor Stitt in May 2021, modified procedures in filling a vacancy in the United States Senate. Under SB959, if a vacancy occurs in an even numbered year on or before March 1, a special election, if necessary, would be held the same year to fill the seat.
Thursday night, a trusted source told News 4 the senator will make the announcement in a way that assures a special election will be triggered to fill his seat, like the new law spells out.
“That’s going to make it attractive to any Republican with a pulse and an ounce of ambition,” said Johnson.
The professor said this move could shake up the state’s political landscape.
“Anyone who is in the state legislature, who is term-limited, might look at this as an opportunity to move to the next level or to try something different,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the opportunity may attract certain kinds of politicians who can condense multi-year campaigns into months.
“If you have built-in name recognition, from serving or running in the past, and you’ve got money to bring to bear in this contest, that’s going to go a long way to determining who’s likely to succeed,” Johnson said. “There’s going to be a lot of hard thinking over the next few weeks by elected Republicans as to whether this is their moment to try to move up the ladder.”
Some names circulating as to who may run for the seat if Sen. Inhofe does step down include:
- Former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, T.W. Shannon
- U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern R-Tulsa
- U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville
Inhofe served in the U.S. House from 1987-1994. He then moved to the U.S. Senate, where he has served since 1994.
News 4 reached out to Inhofe and Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office. We have not heard back from either.
Be sure to tune in Sunday morning, February 27, at 9:30 for a new Flash Point where the team will be discussing in detail Sen. Inhofe and the Russia and Ukraine Crisis.
Senator Inhofe plans a news conference Friday at Noon.