|United States Senator|
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2015
Serving with Jim Inhofe
|Preceded by||Tom Coburn|
|Vice Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee|
|Assumed office |
February 3, 2021
|Preceded by||Chris Coons|
|Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee|
December 19, 2019 – February 3, 2021
|Preceded by||Johnny Isakson|
|Succeeded by||Chris Coons|
|Chair of the House Republican Policy Committee|
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Tom Price|
|Succeeded by||Luke Messer|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Oklahoma's 5th district
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Mary Fallin|
|Succeeded by||Steve Russell|
James Paul Lankford
March 4, 1968
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
|Education||University of Texas, Austin (BS)|
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv)
James Paul Lankford (born March 4, 1968) is an American politician serving as the junior United States Senator for 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.
In January 2021, Lankford announced he would object to the counting of some swing states' electoral votes as part of an attempt to overturn the 2020 U.S. presidential election. He reversed course after the 2021 United States Capitol attack.
Early life, education and career
Lankford was born March 4, 1968, in Dallas, Texas, the son of Linda Joyce (née House) and James Wesley Lankford. His mother was an elementary school librarian. 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.
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.
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. He was a substitute teacher and speech team assistant teacher at Pflugerville High School in 1991.
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.
U.S. House of Representatives
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. 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. He then defeated Democrat Billy Coyle in the general election with 62.53% of the vote.
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.
- United States House Committee on the Budget
- United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- United States House of Representatives Republican Policy Committee (Chair)
In January 2014, Lankford announced he would run in the 2014 Senate special election to succeed retiring Republican Senator Tom Coburn. Lankford won the June 2014 Republican primary, defeating former state House speaker T.W. Shannon and former state senator Randy Brogdon. In November, Lankford won the election for the final two years of Coburn's second term, defeating retiring state senator Constance N. Johnson by 319,079 votes, with 557,002 (67.9%) to Johnson's 237,923 (29.0%). Independent candidate Mark Beard won the remaining 25,965 votes (3.2%).
Lankford was elected to a full six-year term in the Senate in 2016, 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.
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.
- Committee on Appropriations
- Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
- Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government
- Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
- Committee on Finance
- Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
- Committee on Indian Affairs
- Select Committee on Ethics
Lankford supports budget austerity through lowering taxes and reducing government spending. He took the taxpayer protection pledge promising to support no new taxes. He supports the repeal of the income and estate taxes and supports a sales tax to tax consumption and not savings or earnings.
In 2014, Lankford was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and had an "A" rating from the group. Lankford supports loosening restrictions on interstate gun purchases. 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.
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.”
Lankford opposed a 2018 ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma, calling it "harmful to the social fabric of Oklahoma" and arguing that it would have a "dramatic effect on our families and our schools and our businesses and the future of our state". He also appeared in a video ad calling for defeat of the initiative, stating: "Our families won't be better if more parents and grandparents smoke more marijuana." The measure passed with 57% of the vote.
In 2015, Lankford introduced the Keeping out Illegal Drugs (KIDS) Act to block federal funds for Indian tribes that allow the cultivation or distribution of marijuana on their land. Said Lankford: "It is important for our nation to help address this issue for the sake of the next generation of Native Americans. This legislation is a good step in trying to protect young tribal members and fulfill our trust responsibility to Native Americans."
Lankford supports expanding exploration of gas and oil both domestically and on the outer continental shelf. He opposes the Environmental Protection Agency regulating emission standards as he believes it hinders economic growth. Lankford believes manure and other fertilizers should not be classified as pollutants or hazardous.
Lankford rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, calling it a "myth." In 2018, he strongly criticized the National Science Foundation for funding projects that seek to increase reporting on climate change in weathercasts, saying it "is not science—it is propagandizing."
Lankford opposes the Affordable Care Act and has voted to repeal it. In a 2017 Facebook post, he claimed "Since 2013, a majority of states are seeing premiums and costs double, including states that expanded Medicaid".
Lankford has stated his belief that federally funded health insurance is unconstitutional and that he will oppose any and all moves for a federal healthcare system. He supported an initiative to allow Medicare choice and institute budget cuts.
Lankford opposes abortion. He believes Congress should recognize life at the moment of fertilization. He opposes any federally funded programs that allow for abortion, as well as Planned Parenthood and other similar groups.
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.
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." 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."
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.
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."
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.
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. 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."
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".
In January 2021, after Lankford questioned the validity of the 2020 presidential election, some Black Tulsa leaders called for him to resign from both the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Committee and the Senate. They saw the false fraud allegations, which focused on primarily Black cities, as an attack on Black voters. Lankford later apologized for his role in casting doubt on Black votes.
After Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election and Trump refused to concede, Lankford said he would intervene and ensure that Biden, the incoming president, would receive intelligence briefings. Shortly thereafter, he backtracked, said the media had twisted his words, and said "I'm not in a hurry, necessarily, to get Joe Biden these briefings."
Lankford initially announced plans to object to the counting of some swing states' electoral votes as part of an attempt to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election, but he reversed course after the 2021 United States Capitol attack. He later apologized to his black constituents for his involvement in casting doubt on votes from predominantly black communities in several swing states.
Oklahoma's 5th congressional district election, 2010
|Republican primary runoff|
Oklahoma's 5th congressional district election, 2012
|Republican||James Lankford (Incumbent)||153,603||58.70|
U.S. Senate special election in Oklahoma, 2014
|Republican||T. W. Shannon||91,854||34.40|
|Independent||Mark T. Beard||25,965||3.20|
U.S. Senate election in Oklahoma, 2016
|Republican||James Lankford (Incumbent)||980,892||67.7|
|Independent||Mark T. Beard||27,418||1.89|
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- "Oklahoma State Question 788, Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative (June 2018)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
- "Senate bill bars federal funds to tribes that grow marijuana". indianz.com. August 7, 2015. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
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- Thomsen, Jacqueline (June 21, 2018). "GOP senators call for probe of federal grants on climate change". TheHill. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
- "Lankford: Obamacare repeal vote is not the final step on health care reform". PBS NewsHour. July 27, 2017. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
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- "Facebook Post By James Lankford". Facebook. 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2020.
- "What The Oklahoma Congressman Who Just Announced A Senate Campaign Thinks About LGBT Americans". ThinkProgress. January 21, 2014.
- "James Lankford, GOP Rep, Opposes Laws Against Gay Employee Discrimination". HuffPost. May 14, 2012.
- "GOP Rep. Lankford Explains Why It Should Be Legal To Fire Someone For Being Gay: 'It's A Choice Issue'". ThinkProgress. May 14, 2012.
- "Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford Under Fire For Comments On Sexual Orientation". KOTV-DT. May 15, 2012.
- "Antigay Senator: Politicians Obligated to Proselytize". Advocate. November 16, 2018.
- "Lankford says group opposed to same-sex marriage is unfairly labeled". NewsOK. July 31, 2017.
- "HRC Releases Congressional Hall of Shame". Human Rights Campaign. October 8, 2016.
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- BBC Newshour, June 5, 2020
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- Rael, Zach (January 6, 2021). "Lankford changes course, withdraws objection to certify electoral vote following chaos in DC". Retrieved February 12, 2021.
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- U.S. Senator James Lankford official U.S. Senate website
- James Lankford for U.S. Senate
- James Lankford at Curlie
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Appearances on C-SPAN