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Jim Bridenstine

Republicans may have dodged a political bullet on Wednesday, when Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) announced that he will not run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) in 2014.

“After giving this matter serious consideration and prayer, my family and I have decided I will not run in the special election to complete Dr. Coburn’s term,” Bridenstine said in a statement, as reported by Talking Points Memo. “I would like to thank my faithful supporters who have provided so much encouragement. Their extraordinary outpouring of support strengthens my resolve to continue our efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Bridenstine, an unabashedly right-wing freshman from Tulsa, was many Tea Party groups’ favored choice to replace the infamously conservative Coburn in the Senate. Within days of Coburn’s announcement that he would step down, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project released statements urging him to jump into the race.

Bridenstine’s choice to remain in the House clears the path for fellow Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), the fifth-ranking House Republican, to move to the upper chamber of Congress. Lankford, who has drawn criticism from the right for the perception that he is insufficiently conservative, now seems less likely to face the type of mad dash to the right that has repeatedly plagued Republican candidates and embarrassed the national party in recent GOP primaries.

Although Lankford will not have to face arguably his most threatening challenger, he won’t walk to the GOP nomination unopposed. Almost immediately after Bridenstine announced that he will not run for the seat, Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon formally jumped into the race.

No Democrats have entered the contest so far, but whoever wins the June 24 Republican primary is expected to easily win the general election in deep-red Oklahoma.

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