OKLAHOMA CITY — In some ways, the past week has been a hustler for TW Shannon.
But it is also a moment that the former speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives has been waiting for eight years.
“Since 2014, I knew there was another race in me,” said Shannon, who announced her candidacy for the United States Senate during a press conference at the First Americans Museum on Thursday afternoon.
This will be Shannon’s second bid for the Senate, both under somewhat unusual circumstances.
Eight years ago, Shannon gave up the presidential chair to enter the Republican primary to replace Sen. Tom Coburn, who had tendered his resignation in February, effective the following January.
Shannon ended up losing to then-Congressman James Lankford in a runoff.
The circumstances are similar this time. Sen. Jim Inhofe resigned last month, effective next January, allowing the state to conduct a series of special elections alongside the regular election calendar.
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But while that aspect of the election is the same, Shannon said that politically “there’s a completely different dynamic.”
Former President Donald Trump is part of this different dynamic.
Trump’s perceived effect on Republican voters is such that nearly every GOP candidate invokes his name and the America First slogan he salvaged from the pile of catchphrases with disreputable stories.
Shannon did the same. He told the audience of supporters and campaign workers that he spoke to Trump and Trump associate Kelly Anne Conway on Wednesday.
Later, Shannon called Conway a consultant for her campaign; Stephanie Alexander, an Oklahoma City consultant who has held senior positions in Trump campaigns, is also on Shannon’s team.
The “America First Agenda,” Shannon said, is a must.
But when asked how he plans to differentiate his relationship with Trump from that of other GOP candidates claiming ties to the former president, Shannon changed direction.
“All I know is you have to run your own campaign,” he said. “You have to listen. People across the country are suffering.”
Shannon, 44, joins a group that already includes 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin, former Inhofe chief of staff Luke Holland and state senator Nathan Dahm.
Others, including 1st District Congressman Kevin Hern, are eyeing the short-season campaign leading up to the June 28 GOP primary and a possible August runoff.
No Democratic or other non-Republican candidates ran.
Shannon got at least one high-profile endorsement on Thursday — Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anotatubby.
“I support him 100%,” said Anoatubby, who attended the announcement. “We’re thrilled. He has all the ability and background to do the job.”
Although Shannon is known as Oklahoma’s first and only African-American speaker, he is perhaps more popular and influential with Chickasaws and other Native Americans.
Shannon is a citizen of Chickasaw and was the general manager of the 100% owned Chickasaw bank.
In her announcement speech, Shannon laid down a traditional Republican marker that transcends Trump: the defense of capitalism and free enterprise.
“The real reason I’m running for the Senate is because capitalism matters,” he said. “There is a generation of citizens who believe this is a cruel and racist system that only benefits the few.
“There’s a narrative that if you look like me and you were born in America, the system doesn’t work for you,” he said.
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