James Lankford

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James Lankford
James Lankford official Senate photo.jpg
Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee
Assumed office
December 19, 2019
Preceded byJohnny Isakson
United States Senator
from Oklahoma
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Serving with Jim Inhofe
Preceded byTom Coburn
Chair of the
House Republican Policy Committee
In office
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2015
LeaderJohn Boehner
Preceded byTom Price[1]
Succeeded byLuke Messer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 5th district
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2015
Preceded byMary Fallin
Succeeded bySteve Russell
Personal details
James Paul Lankford

(1968-03-04) March 4, 1968 (age 52)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Cindy Hennessey
(m. 1992)
EducationUniversity of Texas, Austin (BS)
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv)
WebsiteSenate website

James Paul Lankford (born March 4, 1968) is an American politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Oklahoma since 2015. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as the U.S. Representative for Oklahoma's 5th congressional district from 2011 to 2015.

From 1996 to 2009, Lankford was the student ministries and evangelism specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and director of the youth programming at the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in Davis, Oklahoma.

In January 2014, Lankford announced he would run in the 2014 U.S. Senate special election following Tom Coburn's resignation from the Senate. He won the June 2014 primary with 57% of the vote, becoming the Republican nominee. He won the special election with nearly 68% of the vote and was elected to the balance of Coburn's term. He was reelected in 2016, again with nearly 68% of the vote.

Early life and education[edit]

Lankford was born March 4, 1968, in Dallas, Texas,[2] the son of Linda Joyce (née House) and James Wesley Lankford.[3][4] His mother was an elementary school librarian.[5] His maternal grandparents owned a small dry-cleaning business, his father and paternal grandparents a dairy farm. His stepfather was a career employee of AC Delco, the parts division of General Motors.[6]

His parents divorced when he was four; he lived with his mother and older brother for a time in his grandparents' garage apartment. He became a Christian at eight. His mother remarried when he was twelve, and the family moved to Garland, Texas, with his stepfather.[5]

Lankford attended Lakeview Centennial High School in Garland. While there, he participated in the Close Up Washington civic education program. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education (specializing in speech and history) at University of Texas at Austin in 1990, and a master's degree in Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1994.[5] He was a substitute teacher and speech team assistant teacher at Pflugerville High School in 1991.

Career prior to Congress[edit]

After graduating, Lankford moved to Edmond, a suburb of Oklahoma City, where he still lives. He worked for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. From 1996 to 2005, he was the program director of Falls Creek, the largest Christian camp in the U.S.[7]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


2010 election[edit]

After two-term incumbent Republican Mary Fallin announced she was giving up her seat to run for governor of Oklahoma, Lankford entered the race to succeed her.[2] He finished first in a seven-way Republican primary—the important contest in this heavily Republican district—and defeated former State Representative Kevin Calvey in the runoff.[8] He then defeated Democrat Billy Coyle in the general election with 62.53% of the vote.[5][9][2]

2012 election[edit]

Lankford defeated Democrat Tom Guild with 59% of the vote. Following the election, he was named chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, the fifth-ranking position in the House Republican caucus, an unusually senior position for a second-term House member.

Committee assignments[edit]

U.S. Senate[edit]



In January 2014, Lankford announced he would run in the 2014 Senate special election to succeed retiring Republican Senator Tom Coburn.[11] Lankford won the June 2014 Republican primary, defeating former state House speaker T.W. Shannon and former state senator Randy Brogdon.[12] In November, Lankford won the election for the final two years of Coburn's second term, defeating retiring state senator Constance N. Johnson by a margin of 557,002, 67.9%, to Johnson's 237,923, 29.0%, with independent candidate Mark Beard collecting 25,965 votes, 3.2% of the total.[13]


Lankford was elected to a full six-year term in the Senate at the 2016 Oklahoma United States Senate election, defeating Democratic consultant Mike Workman with 67.7 percent of the vote. As in 2014, he won in a landslide, carrying every county in the state.


Lankford was sworn into office on January 6, 2015, by Vice President Joe Biden.

On December 21, 2017, Lankford was one of six senators to introduce the Secure Elections Act, legislation authorizing block grants to states to update outdated voting technology as well as form a program for an independent panel of experts that would work toward the development of cybersecurity guidelines for election systems that states could then implement, along with offering states resources to install the recommendations.[14]

Committee assignments[edit]

Political positions[edit]

The American Conservative Union has given Lankford an 88.90% lifetime score.[15]


Lankford supports budget austerity through lowering taxes and reducing government spending.[16] He took the taxpayer protection pledge promising to support no new taxes.[16] He supports the repeal of the income and estate taxes and supports a sales tax to tax consumption and not savings or earnings.[16]


Lankford supports prioritizing spending cuts if the debt limit is reached and the Cut-Cap-and-Balance Pledge.[16] He also supports a balanced budget amendment and voted to terminate the Home Affordable mortgage Program.[16]


He supports compensatory time off for overtime workers and received a 100% rating from the CEI, indicating a pro-workplace choice stance.[16]

Gun rights[edit]

In 2014 Lankford was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and had an "A" rating for his consistent support of pro-gun legislation.[17][18] Lankford supports loosening restrictions on interstate gun purchases.[16] He opposes firearm microstamping, a controversial method of imprinting casings with a unique marking to match it with a specific firearm, and would allow veterans to register unlicensed firearms.[16]

After the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in which the perpetrator used a Smith & Wesson M&P15 AR-15 style rifle to kill 17 and wound 17 others, Lankford said on NBC News' Meet the Press he was open to requiring more comprehensive background checks for firearm purchases, saying, "The problem is not owning an AR-15, it’s the person who owns it.”[19][20][21]


Lankford supports extending the Patriot Act and expanding roving wiretaps occurring in the US.[16] He supports the prioritization of security, starting with military bases.[16]


He supports expanding exploration of gas and oil both domestically and on the outer continental shelf.[16] He opposes the Environmental Protection Agency regulating emission standards as he believes it hinders economic growth.[16]


In addition to barring the EPA from regulating emission standards, Lankford believes manure and other fertilizers should not be classified as pollutants or hazardous.[16]


Lankford has stated his belief that federally funded health insurance is unconstitutional and has made a statement that he will oppose any and all moves for a federal healthcare system.[16] He supported an initiative to allow Medicare choice and also institute budget cuts.[16]


Lankford opposes abortion.[16] He believes Congress should recognize life at the moment of fertilization.[16] He opposes any federally funded programs that allow for abortion, as well as Planned Parenthood and other similar groups.[16]

LGBT rights[edit]

Lankford has largely opposed legislation promoting LGBT rights. He opposes same-sex marriage. In the early days of his 2010 campaign for the House of Representatives, Lankford disparaged the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded hate crime legislation to include greater penalties for hate crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation or race.[22]

Lankford supported Oklahoma Question 711, a statewide constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions that passed in 2004 with 75% of the vote and remained law until it was challenged in court and struck down by a federal judge as unconstitutional in 2014. Lankford lambasted the decision, saying that "marriage is a state issue and Oklahoma has spoken."[22] He also endorsed the Defense of Marriage Act and condemned the 2013 Supreme Court decision striking down parts of the law.

Lankford has defended businesses and individuals opposing LGBT rights, including Chick-fil-A in the wake of its denunciation over donations to groups opposing same-sex marriage, and Phil Robertson after he was suspended from Duck Dynasty in 2013 following comments regarded as anti-LGBT and racist. Lankford attacked A&E for suspending Robertson, writing that Robertson "should be able to speak his views without fear of being silenced."[22]

In 2012, five days after President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, the first sitting U.S. president to do so, Lankford told a ThinkProgress interviewer that he believed homosexuality is a choice and that employers should be allowed to terminate workers for their sexual orientation: "I think it's a choice issue." After LGBT advocates condemned his statements, Lankford defended himself on local television, reiterating his view that homosexuality is a choice.[23][24][25]

After the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Alliance Defending Freedom an anti-LGBT hate group, Lankford criticized the designation and defended the ADF, which had described same-sex marriage as a threat to "healthy, free and stable society."[26][27]

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest organization advocating for LGBT rights in the United States, included Lankford in its 2016 "Congressional Hall of Shame" along with Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz.[28]

Human rights[edit]

In August 2018, Lankford, Marco Rubio and 15 other lawmakers urged the Trump administration to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act against Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses in western China's Xinjiang region.[29] They wrote: "The detention of as many as a million or more Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in "political reeducation” centers or camps requires a tough, targeted, and global response."[30]

Race relations[edit]

In June 2020 Lankford criticized President Trump's decision to walk to the St John's Episcopal Church near the White House, calling it "confrontational". In a BBC interview he said that racism passes on from one generation to the next, and he challenged families to invite a family of a different ethnicity to their home for a meal, to "allow friendship to develop where there has only been friendliness in the past".[31]

Personal life[edit]

Lankford and his wife, Cindy, have two daughters.[32] He attends Quail Springs Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma City.[33]

Electoral history[edit]

Oklahoma's 5th congressional district election, 2010[edit]

Republican primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican James Lankford 18,760 33.58
Republican Kevin Calvey 18,147 32.48
Republican Mike Thompson 10,008 17.91
Republican Shane Jett 5,956 10.66
Republican Johnny Roy 1,548 2.77
Republican Rick Flanigan 762 1.36
Republican Harry Johnson 686 1.23
Total 55,867 100
Republican primary runoff
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican James Lankford 29,817 65.22
Republican Kevin Calvey 15,902 34.78
Total 45,719 100
General election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican James Lankford 123,236 62.52
Democratic Billy Coyle 68,074 34.54
Independent Clark Duffe 3,067 1.56
Independent Dave White 2,728 1.38
Total 197,105 100
Republican hold

Oklahoma's 5th congressional district election, 2012[edit]

General election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican James Lankford (Incumbent) 153,603 58.70
Democratic Tom Guild 97,504 37.30
Independent Pat Martin 5,394 2.10
Independent Robert Murphy 5,176 2.00
Total 261,677 100
Republican hold

U.S. Senate special election in Oklahoma, 2014[edit]

Republican primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican James Lankford 152,749 57.20
Republican T. W. Shannon 91,854 34.40
Republican Randy Brogdon 12,934 4.80
Republican Kevin Crow 2,828 1.10
Republican Andy Craig 2,427 0.90
Republican Eric McCray 2,272 0.90
Republican Jason Weger 1,794 0.70
Total 266,858 100
General election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican James Lankford 557,002 67.90
Democratic Connie Johnson 237,923 29.00
Independent Mark T. Beard 25,965 3.20
Total 820,890 100
Republican hold

U.S. Senate election in Oklahoma, 2016[edit]

General election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican James Lankford (Incumbent) 980,892 67.7
Democratic Mike Workman 355,911 24.58
Libertarian Robert Murphy 43,421 3.00
Independent Sean Braddy 40,405 2.79
Independent Mark T. Beard 27,418 1.89
Total 1,448,047 100.00
Republican hold


  1. ^ https://republicanpolicy.house.gov/about
  2. ^ a b c Ryan, John (October 27, 2010). "James Lankford (R)". National Journal. Archived from the original on November 7, 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  3. ^ https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V88S-548
  4. ^ "House Family".
  5. ^ a b c d Barone, Michael; Chuck McCutcheon (2011). The Almanac of American Politics 2012. Washington, D.C.: National Journal Group. pp. 1331–1333. ISBN 978-0-226-03807-0.
  6. ^ Scott, RBH. "Our Campaigns – Candidate – James Lankford". Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  7. ^ "About | James Lankford". JamesLankford.com. Archived from the original on March 12, 2013. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
  8. ^ "Oklahoma Primary Runoff Results". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  9. ^ Casteel, Chris (November 3, 2010). "Oklahoma elections: Republican James Lankford wins race to succeed Mary Fallin". The Oklahoman. Retrieved November 13, 2013. (subscription required)
  10. ^ "Committees and Caucuses". Archived from the original on October 3, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  11. ^ McCalmont, Lucy (January 20, 2014). "James Lankford announces Senate bid". Politico.
  12. ^ Parti, Tarini (June 24, 2014). "James Lankford wins Okla. GOP Senate nomination outright". Politico. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  13. ^ [1], Oklahoma State Elections Board, November 4, 2014. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  14. ^ "Bipartisan group of lawmakers backs new election security bill". The Hill. December 21, 2017.
  15. ^ http://acuratings.conservative.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2019/04/2018_ACU_ROC_Apr7.pdf
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "James Lankford (Republican, district 5)". On the Issues.
  17. ^ Eaton, Joshua (June 13, 2016). "10 Politicians Who Are Praying for the Orlando Victims And Have Taken Money From the NRA". Teen Vogue. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  18. ^ "NRA Endorses James Lankford for U.S. Senate in Oklahoma". National Rifle Association. September 12, 2014. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  19. ^ Koenig, Kailani (February 18, 2018). "GOP Sen. Lankford has 'no issue' with stronger gun background checks". Meet the Press. NBC News. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  20. ^ Fox, Lauren (February 21, 2018). "Congress wonders if this time will be different for gun control". CNN. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  21. ^ Schallhorn, Kaitlyn (February 19, 2018). "Florida shooting sparks reactions from Republican senators on gun control". Fox News. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  22. ^ a b c "What The Oklahoma Congressman Who Just Announced A Senate Campaign Thinks About LGBT Americans". ThinkProgress. January 21, 2014.
  23. ^ "James Lankford, GOP Rep, Opposes Laws Against Gay Employee Discrimination". HuffPost. May 14, 2012.
  24. ^ "GOP Rep. Lankford Explains Why It Should Be Legal To Fire Someone For Being Gay: 'It's A Choice Issue'". ThinkProgress. May 14, 2012.
  25. ^ "Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford Under Fire For Comments On Sexual Orientation". KOTV-DT. May 15, 2012.
  26. ^ "Antigay Senator: Politicians Obligated to Proselytize". Advocate. November 16, 2018.
  27. ^ "Lankford says group opposed to same-sex marriage is unfairly labeled". NewsOK. July 31, 2017.
  28. ^ "HRC Releases Congressional Hall of Shame". Human Rights Campaign. October 8, 2016.
  29. ^ "Chairs Lead Bipartisan Letter Urging Administration to Sanction Chinese Officials Complicit in Xinjiang Abuses". www.cecc.gov. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).
  30. ^ "China rejects US lawmakers' sanctions call over Muslim camps". Associated Press. August 30, 2018.
  31. ^ BBC Newshour, June 5, 2020
  32. ^ "Biography Congressman James Lankford". Lankford House website. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  33. ^ "Ten Southern Baptists sworn in as new reps". Baptist Press. January 5, 2011. Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved December 25, 2014.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mary Fallin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Steve Russell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tom Price
Chair of the House Republican Policy Committee
Succeeded by
Luke Messer
Preceded by
Tom Coburn
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Oklahoma
(Class 3)

2014, 2016
Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Tom Coburn
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Oklahoma
Served alongside: Jim Inhofe
Preceded by
Johnny Isakson
Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Cory Gardner
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Tom Cotton