The Duncan Banner

January 22, 2014

Special election presents Cole with tough choice

Steve Olafson
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — If Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon runs for the U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole  will have an agonizing decision to make, he admitted on Tuesday.

Endorse Shannon or U.S. Rep. James Lankford?

Lankford, of Oklahoma City, already has announced he will run. Shannon, of Lawton, formally filed papers to explore the option.

“I’m sorry they seem to be headed for a collision,” said Cole, a Republican who represents the 4th Congressional District.

Cole has been a polical mentor to both men. He has high regard for both.

If both run for the open Senate seat, one will be out of public office, an option Cole doesn’t relish.

He won’t make an endorsement any time soon, he said during an hour-long informal discussion with members of the Duncan Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m going to wait and see. I want to see who files.”

He quickly released a statement he would not seek the Senate seat a day after U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn  announced his earlier-than-expected retirement.

Cole, of Moore, said he thought “a little” about trying for the Senate seat but quickly concluded it wasn’t a wise move.

The Senate, he noted, operates on a stricter seniority basis than the House.

“I hate to put it this way, but do I really want to be a 65-year-old freshman?” he said.

Cole could end up chairman of the House Appropriations Committee next year. Two congressmen ahead of him in the pecking order for that position are retiring and one is running for a U.S. Senate seat, he said.

“Inside the committees is where the real work gets done,” he said.

Moreover, Cole said, “Last time I looked, they don’t pay you any more to be in the U.S. Senate.”

Before he ascends to the chair of Appropriations,  there will be a knock-down, drag-out battle for the Oklahoma Republican nomination to replace Coburn.

Cole gives the Democratic Party no chance to capture  Coburn’s Senate seat in November.

That would likely be dismissed as partisan smoke-blowing by some, but Cole noted Oklahoma has not elected a Democrat to an open Senate seat since 1978.

“Unless Republicans get really stupid and tear each other up” the seat will remain in Republican hands, he said. “That means it’s a fight largely between my friends.”

(Editor’s note: In Thursday editions of The Banner, a wide-ranging story on Cole’s views regarding the current state of affairs in Washington will be be published.)