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Tom Cole

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Subject: J. C. Watts, Politics of Oklahoma, Markwayne Mullin, Steve Russell (politician), United States House of Representatives elections in Oklahoma, 2012
Collection: 1949 Births, American Methodists, American People of Chickasaw Descent, Chickasaw People, Grinnell College Alumni, Living People, Members of the United States House of Representatives from Oklahoma, Native American Members of the United States Congress, Native American Politicians, Oklahoma Republicans, Oklahoma State Senators, People from Moore, Oklahoma, People from Shreveport, Louisiana, Politicians from Shreveport, Louisiana, Republican Party Members of the United States House of Representatives, Secretaries of State of Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma Alumni, Watson Fellows, Yale University Alumni
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Tom Cole

Tom Cole
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 4th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2003
Preceded by J. C. Watts
Oklahoma Secretary of State
In office
Governor Frank Keating
Preceded by Glo Henley
Succeeded by Michael Hunter
Personal details
Born Thomas Jeffery Cole
(1949-04-28) April 28, 1949
Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ellen Cole
Children Mason
Alma mater Grinnell College
Yale University
University of Oklahoma
Religion Methodism

Thomas Jeffery "Tom" Cole (born April 28, 1949) is the U.S. Representative for Oklahoma's 4th congressional district, serving since 2003. He is a member of the Republican Party. He is a Deputy Majority Whip. The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) from 2006 to 2008, he was, during his tenure, the fourth-ranking Republican leader in the House. As of 2015, Cole – a member of the Chickasaw Nation – is one of only two registered Native Americans in Congress (the other being fellow Oklahoman Markwayne Mullin).


  • Early life, education, and educating career 1
  • Early political career 2
  • U.S. House of Representatives 3
    • Elections 3.1
    • Tenure 3.2
    • 2016 Contest for House Speaker 3.3
    • Committee membership 3.4
  • Electoral history 4
  • Education policy 5
  • Personal life 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life, education, and educating career

Cole was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of Helen Te Ata (née Gale) and John D. Cole.[1] He is a fifth-generation Oklahoman, having been raised in Moore, Oklahoma. He graduated from Grinnell College in 1971 with a B.A. in history. His postgraduate degrees include an M.A. from Yale University (1974) and a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma (1984), both in British history. Cole's PhD thesis was entitled Life and labor in the Isle of Dogs : the origins and evolution of an East London working-class community, 1800-1980. Cole did research abroad as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow and was a Fulbright Fellow (1977–78) at the University of London. He was a college professor in history and politics before becoming a politician.

Early political career

Following his mother Helen, who served as a state representative and senator, Cole served in the Oklahoma Senate from 1988 to 1991, resigning mid-term to accept a job in Washington. From 1995 to 1999, he was Oklahoma's Secretary of State under Governor Frank Keating, and assisted with the recovery efforts following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He has also served as Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

Cole has been heavily involved in national politics as well, having served both as Executive Director of the NRCC and as Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee (RNC).

Cole spent two years working as a paid consultant for the United States Chamber of Commerce, but his primary involvement in politics was as a political consultant for candidates. Along with partners Sharon Hargrave Caldwell and Deby Snodgrass, his firm (Cole, Hargrave, Snodgrass and Associates) played a large part in the reconstruction of Oklahoma's political landscape, and backed a number of candidates that took office during the Republican Revolution of 1994. Among their clients have been Keating, J.C. Watts, Tom Coburn, Frank Lucas, Mary Fallin, Wes Watkins, Steve Largent, former Mississippi congressman Chip Pickering, and Hawaii governor Linda Lingle.

U.S. House of Representatives


During his initial campaign for the House of Representatives in 2002, Cole received the endorsement of Watts, the popular outgoing congressman. This helped him win a hard-fought general election over Democratic nominee and former Oklahoma State Senator Darryl Roberts. Cole subsequently won easy re-election campaigns in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014.


Following the 2006 election cycle, the members of the House Republican Conference elected Cole to the post of NRCC Chairman, placing him in charge of national efforts to assist Republican candidates for Congress.

His voting record during his nine years in the House marks Cole as a solid conservative with occasional libertarian sympathies. He has consistently voted pro-life and pro-business positions, and established himself as a supporter of free trade, gun rights, the military, veterans, and American Indian issues. He favors loosening immigration restrictions and imposing stricter limits on campaign funds. In 2012, he sponsored H.R. 5912 which would prohibit public funds from being used for political party conventions. This legislation passed the House in September but awaits action by the Senate.[2]

Cole has consistently voted against positions supported by lobbies for senior citizens, labor unions, and teachers' unions. However, he was critical in brokering protections for DOD civilian workers.[2]

In June 2013, after another failure of the United States farm bill in Congress, Cole called the failure of the legislation inexcusable. His district in Oklahoma includes some of the state’s farming communities, and if the Farm Bill passed, it would have saved $40 billion over a ten-year period.[3]

As Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, Cole was responsible for introducing the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 4487; 113th Congress).[4] The bill would appropriate $3.3 billion to the legislative branch for FY 2015, which is approximately the same amount it received in FY 2014.[5] According to Cole, the bill meets its goals "in both an effective and efficient manner, and has done so in a genuinely bipartisan, inclusive and deliberative fashion."[6]

2016 Contest for House Speaker

In the contest for House Speaker that followed the resignation of John Boehner Cole supported the claims of Paul Ryan:

“Anyone who attacks Paul Ryan as being insufficiently conservative is either woefully misinformed or maliciously destructive...Paul Ryan has played a major role in advancing the conservative cause and creating the Republican House majority. His critics are not true conservatives. They are radical populists who neither understand nor accept the institutions, procedures and traditions that are the basis of constitutional governance.”[7]

Committee membership

As of the 114th United States Congress, Tom Cole is a member of the following U.S. House committees:

Electoral history

Oklahoma's 4th congressional district: Results 2002–2014[8]
Year Republican Votes Pct Democrat Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
2002 Tom Cole 106,452 53.83% Darryl Roberts 91,322 46.17%
2004 Tom Cole 198,985 77.77% (no candidate) Charlene K. Bradshaw Independent 56,869 22.23%
2006 Tom Cole 118,266 64.61% Hal Spake 64,775 35.39%
2008 Tom Cole 180,080 66.02% Blake Cummings 79,674 29.21% David E. Joyce Independent 13,027 4.78%
2010* Tom Cole 32,589 77.26% (no candidate) RJ Harris Republican 9,593 22.74%
2012 Tom Cole 176,561 67.89% Donna Marie Bebo 71,155 27.60% RJ Harris Independent 11,725 4.51%
2014 Tom Cole 117,721 70.80% Bert Smith 40,998 24.66% Dennis B. Johnson Independent 7,549 4.54%
  • In 2010, no Democrat or independent candidate filed to run in OK-4. The results printed here are from the Republican primary, where the election was decided.

Education policy

In 2013, Cole introduced the Home School Equity Act for Tax Relief. The bill would allow some homeschool parents to take tax credits for purchasing classroom materials.[9]

Personal life

Cole and his wife, Ellen, have one son, Mason. He is a member of the United Methodist Church and lives in Moore.

Cole has said, "I was raised to think of myself as Native American and, most importantly, as Chickasaw."[10]

Cole has said that a great-aunt of his was the Native American storyteller Te Ata.[10]

Cole has said, "... [My] mother Helen Cole[11] was... extraordinarily proud of our Native American history and was, frankly, the first Native American woman ever elected to state senate in Oklahoma."[10]

Cole sits on the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents and the National Fulbright Association.[12]


  1. ^ "cole". Retrieved 2015-10-27. 
  2. ^ "H.R. 5912: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to prohibit the use of public funds for political party conventions". Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Casteel, Chris (June 21, 2013). "Oklahoma Reps. Tom Cole, Jim Bridenstine Disagree on Farm Bill". NewsOK. Retrieved 20 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "H.R. 4487 – All Actions". United States Congress. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Marcos, Cristina (25 April 2014). "Next week:Appropriations season begins". The Hill. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Hess, Hannah (2 April 2014). "Legislative Branch Bill Keeps House Spending in Check". Roll Call. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer (12 October 2015). "Latest Unease on Right - Is Ryan Too Far to the Left?". New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  8. ^ "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  9. ^ Jim East, "Legislation would give home school families access to education tax deduction", The Ripon Advance, August 28, 2013. (Retrieved August 28, 2013)
  10. ^ a b c Native American Heritage Month Keynote Address (Speech). Library of Congress. 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  11. ^ Helen Cole
  12. ^ "Tom Cole Full Biography". Tom Cole U.S. Congressman. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
J. C. Watts
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 4th congressional district

Party political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Reynolds
Chairperson of the National Republican Congressional Committee
Succeeded by
Pete Sessions
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
John Carter
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Mario Díaz-Balart
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