Oklahoma senator James Inhofe is said to be planning early retirement

Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, told state officials he would step down at the end of this Congress, freeing up a seat he had held since 1994 when he had four years left in his seat. mandate.

Mr. Inhofe, 87, was set to announce his plans on Monday, according to two Oklahoma Republicans who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment in advance. His retirement is unlikely to affect the balance of power in the 50-50 Senate, given Oklahoma’s solidly Republican leanings.

A Conservative and the first Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Mr Inhofe won re-election, most recently in 2020.

While he is expected to leave his seat well before his term expires in early 2027, Mr Inhofe does not expect to step down until the end of this year, he told People. By announcing his intention next week, he will ensure that he can be replaced in a special election in November.

This is because, under a new state law in Oklahomaif Mr. Inhofe waited beyond March 1 to announce his resignation, the special election to replace him would not take place until 2024. And if he resigned immediately, his seat would be temporarily filled by the governor.

Instead, Mr. Inhofe’s announcement should kick off a wide-open dash to be his successor, a race that will most likely be decided in the Republican nominating contest.

Potential GOP candidates to succeed him include Matt Pinnell, the state’s lieutenant governor; TW Shannon, former speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives; and R. Trent Shores, a former US state attorney. Other possible candidates include Luke Holland, Mr. Inhofe’s chief of staff, and most members of the Oklahoma’s House delegation.

Mr. Inhofe’s career followed the political realignment of his state. He was first elected to the state legislature in 1966, but lost the congressional and gubernatorial nominations in the 1970s, when Oklahoma was still dominated by moderate Democrats. It was not until 1986 that Mr. Inhofe won a seat in the House, and he rightly claimed his Senate seat in 1994, a landslide election for Republicans nationwide and a watershed year. in Oklahoma marking the state’s move to the GOP.

Pillar of the ideological right, he has a penchant for grand gestures to get a message across. Mr Inhofe flew a plane upside down in a 2020 re-election ad to show he was still fit for office, even in the mid-1980s. the environment and public works, it threw a snowball across the Senate floor in an attempt to undermine the validity of climate science.

Mr. Inhofe has been vocal in his support for a heavy-handed US military presence around the world. Determined to increase the national defense budget, he is seen as a hawkish guardian of one of Congress’s main responsibilities: passing the annual defense policy bill. In 2020, he led his party in a rare break from President Donald J. Trump to pass crucial legislation over the president’s objections.

Catherine Edmondson contributed report.

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