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Tom Cole's name mentioned as possible speaker candidate

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore

WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. House, presumably Republicans, were actually crying off the House floor on Thursday after Rep. Kevin McCarthy, of California, dropped out of the race to replace John Boehner as speaker. The Washington Post reported the tearful scene, quoting a New York congressman.

It is not clear — though it seems highly doubtful — whether any Oklahoma lawmakers were crying, not because they didn't like or respect McCarthy but because his withdrawal doesn't seem like something any of them would cry about.

The name of Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, has been mentioned by some as a possible candidate. Cole has not made a public statement since McCarthy bowed out early this afternoon.

I talked to Cole ten years ago about the possibility of being speaker.  And I talked to him a few weeks ago about Boehner's problems and more. 

I've known Cole for 29 years. I covered his first political race and did a feature on him when he was the chairman of a state party that was very much a minority.

Only two of the five Oklahomans in the House had made a statement about the speaker situation by late afternoon. Most were expected to back McCarthy. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, was part of a group backing Rep. Daniel Webster, of Florida (not to be confused with the legendary Daniel Webster).

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, the longest-serving House member from Oklahoma — he came in 1994 — said: “I respect Leader McCarthy’s decision to withdraw from the speaker’s race. He has acted in the best interest of the United States House of Representatives, and I am hopeful we can nominate a speaker who will unify the body so that we can focus on the overarching issues facing our country.”

Rep. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, the newest member of the Oklahoma congressional delegation — he was sworn in for the first time this year — said: "It is an encouraging thought that there is so much passion to do what is best for our country here in Washington, DC.

"But what we all have to realize is that to get most of what we want we need to coalesce behind a single voice. I appreciate that Leader McCarthy recognized that to be effective we need to be united. Even though he had a strong backing, and leadership skills, we cannot be fractured as a caucus. It is good to have discussions with varied opinions behind closed doors, and we will continue to discuss who is the best option to unite behind as Republicans, but when the doors open, we must stand as one.

"The best thing the nation can do for us at this crucial moment is not offer their critique or ridicule, but instead stand with us in prayer to the Almighty, as we seek His wisdom and counsel for our nation.”

Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›