Within the sudden special election to the former State Senate
As if there wasn’t enough going on.
WEST HOLLYWOOD – I remember the first time I heard about Jim Inhofe. The Oklahoma senator and then-senior member of the upper chamber’s environmental committee, carted in by my high school principal (who always struggled to audition to be secretary of education), had reportedly hooked up with the real minds of my science magnet from Northern Virginia. Your author wasn’t an Intel Science Fair finalist, don’t worry—so I wasn’t there.
But word of the senator’s tussles with climate-believing millennials has gotten around.
“Are you one of these climate people? You’re one of those climate people?” he reportedly peppered his audience, the kind of 18-year-olds who had just used their first votes to bring Barack Obama to power. I wonder how he thinks the next 13 years went in this country.
But exaggeration or not, it would prove to be prescient stuff, as the senator coped on the hill in both years. In the lo-fi days before Donald Trump, Senator Inhofe might have been just as exciting as he was in Washington (or so I remember now).
“In case we forgot because we keep hearing that 2014 was the warmest year on record,” a snowball-wielding Inhofe said in Primaveral 2015, “I asked the chairman, do you know what that is? It’s a snowball right out here. So it’s very, very cold outside. Very outdated.”
Well, in 2023 we won’t have a Jim Inhofe to contend with — or, if you’re a helpless intern, you’ll be spared a senator walking you in this chamber of democracy so divided with a icy slider could inspire us from the criminals in the Kremlin. The 87-year-old is older than the ayatollah, so he hangs it differently than most American octogars.
Out here in the Golden State, our longest-serving Senator is even older and truly lives up to the moniker of California in the East, but Senator Feinstein (who was mayor of San Francisco under President Carter) just lost her husband and her Senate office has been filled by a Harvard grad , a psilocybin-fed maniac who staged some sort of THC-Tet offensive…so let’s let her and La La Land off the hook.
I draw an inverted Steinbeck and turn my eyes to those who are still in the Former State. The race for the (quick) successor to the good senator has begun. It may not be pretty in Iowa or mean in Ohio, but a senator counts as much as anyone else. Ask Joe Biden. Or Julius Caesar.
First up is the potential leader if he plays his cards right. Alex Gray, who frequently works with (and most recently worked for) former National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien, is in the running. Gray likely desires the support of the man a little further up the chain, and as he emphasized in his announcement, “It has been my privilege to serve President Trump in the White House every day of his presidency.”
No word yet on whether Gray’s back punch will be returned, but it’s worth noting that Trump has demonstrated a clear ability to finish a race in smaller red states — especially for alumni of his administration. Consider the success of Sarah Huckabee Sanders in neighboring Arkansas. For officials at the last White House, it’s apparently a close call between running for senior office or writing an all-clear (former Vice President Mike Pence may be on course to attempt both). Gray also appears to have the support of conservative pundit and columnist Hugh Hewitt, who was an early promoter of a guy named Glenn Youngkin. In split primaries — perhaps with modest turnout — every little bit counts, and Senator Mike Lee’s early support of Gray on Thursday shows parallels with Senator Ted Cruz strange but obviously effective campaigning for Youngkin in the OId Dominion.
Next is the old runner-up, TW Shannon, the former State Secretary.
Shannon blew a race against future Senator James Lankford in 2014 and lost by nearly 20 points in the primary. But he’s back and will officially enter the race on Thursday. Shannon, 44, is no longer clean-shaven and sports X-ennial hipster frames and an even edgier chopped mutton beard. In recent months, he’s been posting content – “Go Woke, You Go Broke” and “No, Buttigieg, Everyone Shouldn’t Drive a Tesla” – defending his aesthetic sensibilities, “TW stands for Turtlenecks Work” and sounding the alarm: “Twitter -CEO says 1st and 2nd Amendments need adjustment.” He should be a fun returnee in the race, and he would be that rare African American Republican Senator and certainly a rarer registered member of the Chickasaw Nation.
And State Senator Nathan Dahm is involved.
At 39, Dahm is young too (everyone in this race…are Oklahoma property taxes really that high?). Dahm appears to be a throwback to the free market, as he told a assembled crowd from the back of his pickup truck last fall (back when he was challenging Lankford): “Government’s only primary purpose is to secure our rights, it’s not trying to find ways to trample our rights.” It may be as good as a gingham shirt, but in the age of Covid draconism there would be fewer stunning things than not a “libertarian moment” but a libertarian tremor.
Dahm has the support of Sen. Rand Paul, who was elected president at CPAC last month by a respectable 3 percent (which was good for anyone whose name wasn’t “Trump,” “DeSantis,” or “Trump, Jr.”). It’s a reminder of the remaining Libertarian, Inc. infrastructure that can turn a race in this country. And with statements like this – “You know, I opposed the mandates of Dr. Fauci resisted, but I need your help. That’s why I support Nathan Dahm for the Senate. … I know Nathan Dahm will join me in demanding that Fauci be fired and removed from office immediately” — it’s a sure sign that Republicans will be targeting Anthony Fauci in the years to come they have Benghazi made. (Fauci did something more far-reaching).
Filling the ranks is Congressman Markwayne Mullin, who has a great name, something you can’t ignore as Arkansas finally produced a Southern Senator named “Cotton.”
The least known is Luke Holland, Chief of Staff and Inhofe’s preferred choice. Does it even snow in Oklahoma?