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Self-funded political newcomer seeks to oust longtime Republican US Rep. Tom Cole in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — U.S. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the powerful Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was trying to fend of a primary challenge Tuesday from a businessman who has poured millions of his own dollars into the race.

Political newcomer Paul Bondar has loaned more than $5 million of his own money to his campaign in Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District. Three other GOP candidates are also on the ballot.

Cole, a longtime GOP political strategist in Oklahoma before his election to Congress in 2002, has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. But Bondar’s money has allowed him to blanket the television airwaves and social media with a barrage of ads touting his candidacy.

“Five million dollars in Oklahoma would be like $15 million in Atlanta or $20 million in Los Angeles,” said Chad Alexander, the former chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party and the host of a political talk show on radio station KOKC. “The most frequent question I get asked is when is this election over because there are so many Bondar and Cole ads on the air, people are just sick of them.”

Bondar has also faced questions about his residency. He most recently lived in Texas and voted in that state’s Republican primary in March, which has become a focal point of Cole’s attacks.

Bondar has attacked Cole as a Washington insider willing to vote with Democrats on spending bills, including billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine.

Cole typically faces only token opposition but records show he has spent more than $3.1 million so far on the primary. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face off in a primary runoff Aug. 27.

Oklahoma’s 4th District stretches across south-central Oklahoma and includes Ada, Ardmore, Duncan, Lawton/Fort Sill, Moore and Norman.

There are two other Oklahoma congressmen facing challengers.

In the Tulsa-based 1st District, Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern is competing against Paul Royse. Royse has not filed campaign finance disclosures with the Federal Election Commission. On the Democratic side, either Evelyn Rogers, who has sought this seat as an independent in the past two general elections, or former FBI agent Dennis Baker will face the Republican winner in November. Baker has reported almost $91,000 raised to Rogers’ $1,300.

Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, the longest-tenured incumbent in the House delegation, has two challengers, neither of whom reported raising more than $20,000 this cycle.

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