Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, endorsed former state Speaker T.W. Shannon in Oklahoma's Senate special election, marking the latest tea party leader to back his candidacy in the Sooner State.
Shannon will face GOP Rep. James Lankford, as well as a handful of other lesser-known Republicans, in a June 24 special election primary . There is a special election because Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has announced he will vacate his Senate seat at the end of this Congress, two years before his term expires in 2016.
“T.W. Shannon is a strong Constitutional conservative who will fight for individual liberty and help turn our country around,” Cruz said in a Wednesday news release. “T.W. embodies the American dream. I’m proud to offer T.W. my enthusiastic endorsement because not only will he vote the right way, but he’ll stand up and fight with us in the Senate to stop President Obama’s assault on our liberties and defend America’s founding principles.”
Shannon, who is part African-American and part Native-American, is backed by other tea party leaders including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Lankford, on the other hand, has the endorsement of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Polls show Lankford as the front-runner in the contest. However Shannon has made headway into Lankford's lead since the race kicked off earlier this year.
If no candidate garners at least 50 percent of the vote, the race will head to an Aug. 26 runoff.
Whoever emerges from the GOP primary is the heavy favorite in the Sooner State, which voted for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney with 67 percent in 2012.
Oklahoma's Senate special election is rated a Safe Republican contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.