Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Cole Will Be Missed in Legislature

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Cole Will Be Missed in Legislature

Article excerpt

Tom Cole, Oklahoma's gifted Republican political strategist, is going to Washington to help his party avoid a post-impeachment slump that many have predicted.

But Cole, who was named chief of staff of the Republican National Committee, is keeping close to Oklahoma politics and friends believe he will return to the state after the 2000 elections.

That could change if the GOP recaptures the White House and new opportunities arise, but "what he has told me, his intention is to come back in two years," said Deby Snodgrass, a partner in the successful political consulting and polling company headed by Cole. "Tom is a brilliant political strategist and will always have opportunities to go and do things," she said. The most immediate impact of the former state GOP chairman's departure will be on the legislative session that ends May 29. Although an intense partisan at times, the 49-year-old Cole also has a pragmatic side, knowing when to fold his cards and play another hand. When Republicans lost a monumental legislative struggle over House Bill 1017 -- the huge school reform and tax bill of 1990 -- many Republicans joined the cause of repealing the measure at the ballot box. Cole, an ardent foe of 1017 as a state senator, rejected that idea, however, realizing that repeal meant taking away money from schools after their budgets had been built, creating a possible backlash that would harm the GOP. Bill Price, the GOP nominee for governor, did not take that advice, favoring repeal of 1017 and suffering a landslide loss at the polls to Democrat David Walters in November. Price was badly trounced in Republican-leaning Tulsa, which had voted against Walters in 1986, giving Republican Henry Bellmon a victory. The school reform measure was strongly supported by Tulsa's community leaders. Democrats credit Cole, son of former state Sen. Helen Cole, for keeping a dialogue going during the most intense legislative struggles of Republican Gov. Frank Keating's first term. At a news conference last week, Cole spoke more of the successes between Republicans and Democrats during Keating's reign, including a record road spending program and the largest tax-cut package in state history. …

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