Senator James M. Inhofe, conservative climate change critic, says he will retire

“There has to be a day when you say, ‘Okay, that’s going to be it,'” Inhofe told the newspaper.

Inhofe’s top aide in the Senate, Chief of Staff Luke Holland, unveiled a campaign website on Friday.

“Luke is proud to have Senator Inhofe’s endorsement,” it read. Inhofe confirmed in the Oklahoman interview that he would campaign for Holland ahead of a June 28 primary.

Inhofe, who won re-election with 63% of the vote in 2020, had previously signaled that his current six-year term would be his last. But he has told allies in recent months that he is considering early retirement due to his wife’s declining health.

The Inhofe seat would be heavily favored to remain in Republican hands. No Democrat has won a major statewide office since 2006, and then-President Donald Trump won the state with 65% of the vote in 2020.

A former state legislator, mayor of Tulsa and a four-term member of the United States House, Inhofe was first elected to the Senate in the 1994 Republican wave, succeeding veteran Democrat David Boren.

Hailing from a state where oil and gas production is an economic mainstay, Inhofe has long been a willing and willing foe of environmentalists who have called for a global shift to renewable energy to combat climate change. For years in the early 2000s, he used chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to promote his views.

In 2012, Inhofe published a book, “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future”, attacking those calling for an end to fossil fuels. He gained national attention in 2015 for throwing a snowball across the Senate floor on a freezing day in Washington, calling it further proof of his climate views, which are in direct contradiction to the mainstream climate science.

While those views have made him a boogeyman for liberals, he’s also been willing to cut deals with Democrats — including a 2016 rewrite of the federal toxic chemicals law he negotiated with the senator. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), one of the most vocal liberals in the Senate. As chairman of the Armed Services Committee for much of the Trump administration, he negotiated annual defense bills with Democrats.

Inhofe’s retirement is likely to spark a fierce scramble for the GOP nomination, with Gov. Kevin Stitt a potential frontrunner.

Besides Holland, other possible candidates include Representatives Markwayne Mullin and Kevin Hern, former State House Speaker TW Shannon and Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell.

Inhofe’s retirement could also prompt musical chairs in the Senate by opening up the GOP’s top spot on the Armed Services Committee. Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.), the current chairman of the Commerce Committee, is the second-longest-serving Republican on that panel. If Wicker relinquishes the top Commerce job, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) would be in line to succeed him — and possibly hold a hammer in Congress for the first time if Republicans regain a majority in the Senate in November.

Teresa H. Sadler