One of Oklahoma's most well-known politicians is calling it quits.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., announced late Thursday (Jan. 16) that he would resign following the conclusion of the 113th Congress.
Coburn, an obstetrician from Muskogee, has been battling a recurrence of cancer this year, though the 65-year-old said in a statement that his health was not the reason for resigning with two years left in his second term in the Senate.
"Carolyn and I have been touched by the encouragement we’ve received from people across the state regarding my latest battle against cancer," he said. "But this decision isn’t about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires."
First coming to Washington in 1994 as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and then being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Coburn spent much of his career fighting for reduced spending and "common sense" governing, becoming well-known during his time in the Senate for his annual Wastebook, highlighting what he and his staff determine is the "most egregious spending" each year.
Coburn said he expects his successor will continue to fight for common sense policies for the people of Oklahoma.
"That’s why I initially ran for office in 1994 and re-entered politics in 2004. I’m encouraged there are thousands of Americans with real-world experience and good judgment who feel just like I do," he said. "As dysfunctional as Washington is these days, change is still possible when ‘We the People’ get engaged, run for office themselves or make their voices heard. After all, how else could a country doctor from Muskogee with no political experience make it to Washington?"
In a video on his Facebook page, Coburn told supporters that his retirement would be spent back in Oklahoma and added that he would focus his attention on how he "can best serve my own children and grandchildren."
With Coburn's resignation to take place at the conclusion of the current Congress, a special election will be necessary to fill the spot with many party insiders saying other members of the Congressional delegation — namely Republicans Tom Cole of Norman and James Lankford of Edmond — have an eye on Coburn's seat. Neither has publicly commented on the speculation swirling among insiders from Washington to Oklahoma City.
Another Republican rumored to be interested in the seat, U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, congratulated Coburn on his years of service and upcoming retirement on Friday (Jan. 17).
“Our sincere appreciation goes out to Dr. Coburn for his years of service and unwavering dedication to this country," he said. "A true public servant, he will be missed in our delegation and in Washington, D.C. It has been an honor to work alongside Dr. Coburn and I thank him for his service.”
Gov. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., has already set the special election dates to coincide with the 2014 election cycle with the primary set for June 24, a runoff (if needed) on Aug. 26 and the general election on Nov. 4.
Fallin, in the midst of her own re-election this year, also commented on Coburn's time in office and the issues he has stood for during his time in office.
“Doctor Tom Coburn has represented the ‘Gold Standard’ for smart and tough fiscal conservatism since he began serving in the United States Congress in 1995. He is a true hero of the American Taxpayer and one of the most influential voices in American politics today," she said.
“His consistent, relentless advocacy for responsible spending and deficit reduction has earned him respect from men and women on both sides of the aisle. Agree with him or not, there is never any doubt where Tom Coburn stands on the issues. He is as impressive a public servant as they come, and I am sure we have not heard the last from him. While I am sorry to see the Senate lose one of this country’s great statesmen, I am happy that Tom can now spend more time with his family and focus on other opportunities.”
COBURN'S FULL STATEMENT ANNOUNCING HIS RESIGNATION
“Serving as Oklahoma’s senator has been, and continues to be, one of the great privileges and blessings of my life. But, after much prayer and consideration, I have decided that I will leave my Senate seat at the end of this Congress.
“Carolyn and I have been touched by the encouragement we’ve received from people across the state regarding my latest battle against cancer. But this decision isn’t about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires. My commitment to the people of Oklahoma has always been that I would serve no more than two terms. Our founders saw public service and politics as a calling rather than a career. That’s how I saw it when I first ran for office in 1994, and that’s how I still see it today. I believe it’s important to live under the laws I helped write, and even those I fought hard to block.
“As a citizen legislator, I am first and foremost a citizen who cares deeply about the kind of country we leave our children and grandchildren. As I have traveled across Oklahoma and our nation these past nine years, I have yet to meet a parent or grandparent who wouldn’t do anything within their power to secure the future for the next generation. That’s why I initially ran for office in 1994 and re-entered politics in 2004. I’m encouraged there are thousands of Americans with real-world experience and good judgment who feel just like I do. As dysfunctional as Washington is these days, change is still possible when ‘We the People’ get engaged, run for office themselves or make their voices heard. After all, how else could a country doctor from Muskogee with no political experience make it to Washington?
“As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere. In the meantime, I look forward to finishing this year strong. I intend to continue our fight for Oklahoma, and will do everything in my power to force the Senate to re-embrace its heritage of debate, deliberation and consensus as we face our many challenges ahead.
“May God bless you, our state and our country.”