America’s New Congress is filled with hundreds of Members and thousands of stories. Each week, GOP.gov will introduce you to a new House Republican with “10 Questions.”
Our Member of the Week is Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District. In Congress, he serves on the House Appropriations Committee, the House Budget Committee, and the House Rules Committee. In addition to these committees, he also serves as a Deputy Whip for the Republican Conference.
A fifth generation Oklahoman, Tom has a significant background of service to his state. He resides in Moore, OK with his wife, Ellen.
We asked Rep. Cole 10 questions…
1.) What inspired you to run for Congress?
It was really the fact that my Congressman and my client J.C. Watts decided not to seek re-election. There’s nobody I admire more than J.C. and frankly, in his view, I was the only Republican at the time who could hold the seat. His help in both the primary and the general elections were instrumental in my success.
I’d been J.C. Watts’ top consultant in all five of his previous races for Corporation Commissioner and for Congress. When he decided not to run again, I knew I was literally the “slow second stringer off the bench.” But thanks to his help and endorsement, I was able to win the primary and be successful in a very competitive race in the general election.
Later, one of the greatest honors of my life was to introduce J.C. Watts the night he was inducted in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. Many people, including myself, were surprised that J.C. chose me to make this introduction. But as I told the legendary Sooner Coach Barry Switzer that evening, “After all, Coach, when J.C. played for me, we were undefeated.”
2.) What was your dream job growing up?
NFL defensive end.
3.) What has surprised you most about life on Capitol Hill?
Frankly, not much has surprised me. Before being elected to represent the Fourth District in the House, I had lived on Capitol Hill while serving as Executive Director of the NRCC and Chief of Staff at the RNC, and I also served as District Director for former Congressman Mickey Edwards.
But in serving as Congressman for the Fourth District, I suppose I’ve been surprised simply by the sheer amount of hours that members have to put in to really be effective.
4.) Favorite sports team?
OU Sooners. I bleed crimson and cream!
5.) If we were to empty your pockets, what would we find?
Matches, a cutter and a good cigar.
6.) Who is your biggest influence in your life?
My mother, without a doubt. She not only served as a state representative, but she was the first Native American woman to serve as a state senator. And she was really one of the founding mothers of the modern Republican Party in Oklahoma.
7.) When did you know you were a Republican?
As soon as my mother told me.
8.) What is the most important–but under-reported—policy issue you work on?
Native American issues without a doubt. Far too often, the first Americans have been the last Americans in terms of lifespan, educational opportunities, wealth and the ability to move ahead. The treatment of Native Americans is one of the saddest chapters in American history, but it’s also an area which our party has begun to address. And I’m proud to have played some small part in that. My interest in these issues stems in part from being a proud Chickasaw and one of only 14 tribal members who have ever served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
9.) Describe your ideal “day-off”.
It would probably start with a cigar in the morning, an OU football game in the afternoon and a celebration of the inevitable victory at a nearby bar after the game.
10.) Coffee or tea?