Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Longtime House Republican faces pricey primary full of fighting words — and football

By 37ci3 Jun13,2024

Tom Cole, the last defense Republican in the House this year, is facing a primary challenger from the right in Oklahoma, as GOP incumbents across the country have seen. their margins of victory shrink In recent years.

This is the most competitive primary race Cole has faced since he was first drafted in 2002, and it’s almost as bitter as the ongoing rivalry between the University of Oklahoma Sooners and the University of Texas Longhorns. competition.

Cole’s allies leaned on that sports rivalry to make sure Cole didn’t run away before Tuesday’s primary. The congressman’s main rival, businessman Paul Bondar, spent more than $5.1 million of his own money on the race.

But Bondar faced a potentially damning charge in “Sooner” country: he’s actually a Texan.

“It’s not good to move somewhere to run for Congress if you’ve never lived there, but if you’re coming to Oklahoma from Texas, it probably adds an extra dimension,” said Cole, a lifelong Oklahoman and member of Congress. The Chickasaw Nation told NBC News Thursday.

Cole recently backed Americans 4 Security PAC, a super PAC launched a TV ad He accused Bondar of “trying to take an Oklahoma congressional seat directly from Dallas.”

“Bondar is full of Texas bull,” a narrator later adds. “Don’t let a Longhorn try to take our place Soon.”

Bondar tried to solve the problem in his own way Television commercial said this week: “I’ve played a lot of football in my life and I love the Sooners. But this election is not about football. We’ve all seen what Tom Cole can do over the past 22 years. Tom Cole wants to cut your Social Security benefits. He wants to increase the retirement age, if you have additional income, to cut your benefits.”

“I’m not a Longhorns fan,” Bondar said in a phone interview.

Bondar, who grew up in Wisconsin and later lived in Illinois, said he moved to North Texas in 2021 to escape Illinois’ Covid pandemic restrictions. Bondar voted in the March primary in Texas this year before turning in his Texas driver’s license for an Oklahoma ID, and he said he may vote in Tuesday’s Oklahoma primary because it’s a different election.

A company related to Bondar purchased property in Johnston County, Oklahoma in June 2022, as well 500-acre property in Atoka County on March 31, 2023, six days after he filed to run for Congress, according to two documents his campaign shared with NBC News. Bondar’s latest property isn’t actually in the 4th District, and he declined a question about whether he plans to move, noting that he doesn’t have to live in the district to run.

Bondar, who works in the insurance industry, said a client pushed him to get involved in GOP politics and first contacted Oklahoma after endorsing some candidates in the 2022 midterm elections. He said GOP lawmakers in North Texas “represent their constituencies as well as other members of the Oklahoma delegation.”

“I wouldn’t run against someone who does a good job, but I will run against someone who doesn’t,” Bondar said.

Bondar suggested that Cole had lost touch with the district and was spending too much time in the nation’s capital. He also criticized Cole, who heads the powerful House Appropriations Committee, for failing to rein in government spending and supporting aid to Ukraine.

“I’ve spent more time in my district in one month than this guy has in a lifetime,” Cole said when asked about the criticism, describing it as “an attempt to deflect from, I think, his lack of familiarity with a district.” and lack of ties to Oklahoma.

“I think it’s kind of like a bar fight,” Cole said afterward. “If you’re in a bar fight, the guy with the most money doesn’t win; the guy with the most friends wins. And I have more friends than my opponent, and I think that will show on Tuesday. .”

The pro-Cole super PAC, Americans 4 Security PAC, also ran ads featuring footage of Bondar driving a car with a Texas license plate. stumbled into a local news interview on his exact location, admitting that he was not in Oklahoma.

Cole’s former chief of staff, Peter Kirkham, who worked with the super PAC, said in a local news interview that the 60-second ad “defined the race for voters.” Kirkham said a football ad is a way to inject some humor and do just that Where the bond is invalid.

“College football is the No. 1 sport in the state, and the Oklahoma-Texas game is the No. 1 game. … The competition is real,” Kirkham said.

Along with some football references, ads by Cole and his allies also highlighted the longtime congressman’s endorsement of former President Donald Trump, which Cole said was “hugely helpful” in the race.

According to estimates, Trump won the 4th District in 2020 by 32 percentage points. Daily Kos Elections.

Trump ally Roger Stone is an adviser to Bondar’s campaign.

Trump’s endorsement could give candidates a big boost in the GOP primaries. But Cole is also trying not to let his race go into overtime. With four other candidates on the ballot, Cole could be forced into a one-on-one runoff on Aug. 27 if he doesn’t win more than 50% of the vote against the entire field.

Both contenders are sprinting to the finish, and Cole and Bondar are no strangers to leaving it all on the field. After all, they both played college football.

CORRECTION (June 13, 2024, 4:28 PM ET): An earlier version of this article misstated when Bondar purchased the Atoka County property. It was March 31 of this year, not 2023.

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By 37ci3

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