Scott Pruitt, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former President Donald Trump’s administration, has filed his candidacy in the Oklahoma special election to replace the incumbent GOP senator. James Inhofe.
Pruitt, a Republican who also served as Oklahoma’s attorney general from 2011 to 2017, resigned as EPA chief in July 2018 amid scandals involving allegations of corruption, nepotism and unprofessional behavior . On Friday, Pruitt officially submitted his candidacy to replace Inhofe, who announced in February that he would retire at the end of the year.
Other Republican candidates vying for the seat include U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin, State Senator Nathan Dahm, former Oklahoma House Speaker TW Shannon and former U.S. National Security Council Chief of Staff Alex Grey. At the time of his retirement announcement, Inhofe endorsed his former chief of staff, Luke Holland.
Pruitt is a relatively late entry into the race, with primary elections set to take place on June 28. Since Oklahoma votes heavily Republican, most expect the GOP nominee to become Inhofe’s eventual replacement. The only current Democratic candidate is Kendra Horn, a former US Representative from Oklahoma.
Trump’s choice to appoint Pruitt to head the EPA was notable and controversial because of his rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change. During his tenure, Pruitt received several copies of Global warming for dummies and climate denial texts, according to information obtained by a transparency body.
Pruitt’s leadership of the agency has also been criticized for a series of rollbacks to Obama-era climate and pollution rules. However, a wave of scandals that Pruitt described as “relentless attacks on me personally” eventually led him to submit a letter of resignation to Trump, who accepted it with a statement praising Pruitt for doing “an outstanding job. “.
Several ethics investigations were launched while Pruitt ran the agency. Among his scandals were allegations that he used his position to try to land his wife a well-paying job, improperly spent agency money for his personal benefit, and borrowed money from staff he he never repaid.
In what might have been his biggest scandal, Pruitt allegedly rented a luxury condo in Washington, DC, from an energy lobbyist for $50 a night, well below market value.
Pruitt told The Associated Press on Friday that he “led with conviction in Washington, D.C.” while at the EPA, and insisted he had been the target of criticism because the agency was the “holy grail of the American left”.
“And I made a difference in that,” Pruitt said. “I think Oklahomans know when The New York Times and CNN and MSNBC and those places are against you, Oklahomans are for you.”
Newsweek contacted the Oklahoma Republican Party for comment.