Challenging sitting members of Congress is one of the loneliest endeavors in the world. Even those who are naturally sympathetic to a primary challenge will rarely attach their names publicly to what is viewed as political suicide in party politics. As a result, primary challengers, especially constitutional conservatives, seldom receive prominent endorsements.
It is for this reason that former Sen. Tom Coburn’s decision to endorse Jarrin Jackson against Congressman Markwayne Mullin is so significant. Coburn isn’t just any former GOP senator; he is perhaps the most revered Republican in the state of Oklahoma. In a statement released to CR by the Jackson campaign, Coburn said the following:
I am proud to endorse Jarrin Jackson, a combat veteran who understands and has fought for our Constitution. He will stand up for us in Washington and not go along to get along. He also will honor a six year self-imposed term limit.
That last comment is a veiled shot at Congressman Mullin, who has recently equivocated on his promise to serve no longer than three terms, a pledge that will come due in 2018. Coburn has long been a stickler for term limits, having abided by his self-imposed limit on both his tenure in the House and Senate. Since retiring from the Senate, Coburn has been working on pushing long-term reforms, such as pursuing a Convention of the States through the Article V process to amend the Constitution. I’m told Jackson’s support for the use of Article V was also a factor in earning Coburn’s support.
Jackson is a West Point graduate with combat experience in Afghanistan. I profiled him last week as a rising star in the grassroots movement and possibly the best prospect to knocking off an incumbent in a year that has proven difficult to dislodge establishment Republicans. Jarrin Jackson has also written a couple of articles for CR regarding the military, his most recent one in honor of Memorial Day, highlighting the need to end politically correct wars that endanger the lives of our soldiers.
Given the poor track record of success in winning primaries against incumbents, the biggest thing grassroots candidates need is a sense of legitimacy in order to raise money and attract media attention. Coburn’s support could very well serve as a game-changer and attract support from larger grassroots organizations.
The Oklahoma primary is June 28.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.