In a crowded race for the seat Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe is relinquishing in January 2023, candidate T.W. Shannon vows to follow the state's trend of minimizing abortion access by promising to uphold "the right and the sanctity of life."

Shannon, a 44-year-old former speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, agrees with the state's latest law banning abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is typically around six weeks.

"The right and the sanctity of life is the most important thing that a government can do, is to protect its citizens. And that's exactly what we should be doing as a society," Shannon told the Washington Examiner.


Shannon, who is black, began running campaign television ads earlier this month accusing the abortion advocacy group Planned Parenthood of being “the true face of white supremacy.”

T.W. Shannon. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

He accused the organization and the "rest of the abortion industry" of targeting "young black women," claiming that "400,000 black babies are killed each year in this country."

While claims of similar figures have been made by groups including the National Black Chamber of Commerce, many states do not report abortion numbers by race. There were a total of 629,898 legal abortions reported by states, excluding California, Maryland, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia, according to the latest 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the CDC data that tracks race data from mothers seeking abortion found a disproportionate 38% of the procedures happened among black women, despite black people comprising just 12% of the population in 2020.

Shannon sought the Senate in 2014 but lost to Inhofe, a fixture of Oklahoma politics. Inhofe was elected to the Senate in 1994 after eight years in the House. At age 88, he'll leave office after a November special election with four years left on his term.

"I appreciate the fact that Sen. Inhofe was able to maintain a pretty high conservative score by most conservative groups, and I appreciate him being a hawk for the military," Shannon said.

Since Shannon retired from the Oklahoma legislature in 2014 at the age of 36, he went back to school and finished his degree in law at Oklahoma City University by the age of 40.

"I worked for two members of Congress, serving the Oklahoma legislature when I was 33 years old. Colleagues elected me speaker of the House, and now I'm the CEO of a bank. That only happens in America," Shannon said.

He's led his campaign on an "anti-woke" agenda, saying that "America is not the home of systemic racism. It's the home of systemic opportunity, and that's the message that I think Republicans should be driving home if we're going to be successful in 2024."

Inhofe announced his plans to step down from his Senate role in February, leading to a flood of GOP candidates seeking to fill his place ahead of the June 28 primary election.

The packed race of GOP candidates running for Inhofe's seat includes candidates such as former Environmental and Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, ex-Trump Administration official Alex Gray, state Sen. Nathan Dahm, and Luke Holland, Inhofe's chief of staff and preferred successor.


Former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn is also seeking a bid for the Senate seat in the general election later this year.

Planned Parenthood did not respond to a request for comment.