Home News House GOP spending chief Tom Cole defeats right-wing challenger

House GOP spending chief Tom Cole defeats right-wing challenger


Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma’s senior Republican and chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, is expected to win a 12th term in office after defeating a challenge from a well-funded right-wing businessman in Tuesday’s primary.

Mr. Cole, who was first elected to Congress in 2002 and has long been a fixture in Oklahoma politics and an influential legislative voice behind the scenes in Congress, was in a landslide lead when the Associated Press announced the results less than an hour after polls closed.

Cole was promoted to chairman of the influential Appropriations Committee in April, a coveted post on Capitol Hill that oversees the allocation of federal spending. The committee’s top members can move federal funds not only across government but also to their own districts.

But as the GOP has moved to the right in recent years and become more dogmatic about cutting federal spending, appropriations have become a political liability for the party. Cole’s opponent, conservative businessman Paul Bondar, who opposes spending, has tried to use Cole’s 15-year tenure on the committee against him. Bondar has argued that Cole was out of touch with his district during his time in Congress and has attacked his voting record as not conservative enough.

“Tom Cole voted with the Democrats for billions of dollars in new deficit spending,” a narrator on the TV ad said. “Paul Bondar opposed new federal spending.”

Mr. Bondar pledged from the outset to pour a significant amount of his personal wealth into the campaign. By late last week, spending had surpassed $8 million, making it one of the most expensive House primaries of the year and the most competitive primary challenge Mr. Cole has faced in years.

“It was like an old-fashioned bar fight,” Mr Cole said Tell Roll Call“The person who wins in a bar fight isn’t the one with the most money, it’s the one with the most friends. And I have a lot of friends in that area.”

Mr. Cole’s predecessor on the committee, Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, When she led the group, she also faced a well-funded primary challenge.And was able to use its position in the zone to easily defeat it.

Ultimately, Mr. Cole’s status as a veteran of the district’s politics and Mr. Bondar’s own political weaknesses, chief among them his recent move to the state from Texas, won him the election. In an interview with a local television reporter that went viral in the district, Mr. Bondar admitted, in a halting manner, that he had called from Texas.

“Without a map, he has no way of finding his way,” Mr. Cole said of his opponent in an interview earlier this month. “I’m not an unknown quantity. My mom’s side of the family has been in this district for 175 years, my dad’s side of the family has been in this district for 140 years.”

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