James Taylor, a long-time Oklahoma City public school educator and Christian pastor, wants to deny incumbent U.S. Representative Tom Cole the Republican party nomination this year.
He has been trying to do that since 2016.
In this particularly volatile election year, Taylor believes his fourth time may be charm.
The Fourth District sprawls across much of southwestern Oklahoma, including parts of south Oklahoma City and Norman.
Taylor told The Oklahoma City Sentinel, "I am running for office because our Founding Fathers never envisioned career politicians; but instead, believed in citizen legislators — people with morals, values, and common sense who would live under the very laws they enacted, and not exempt themselves from those laws.
"When I first ran for Congress, I had a face-to-face with Cole. I said to him, ‘I will not attack you personally, but your voting record is open season.’ He responded with, ‘That is absolutely correct, it’s public record.’ ”
In that presidential election year, Taylor and another challenger (Shawn M. Roberts) had nearly 29 percent of the vote against the incumbent. In all, there were 40,362 primary ballots cast.
As Taylor puts it, "With Tom Cole’s permission, I’m going to talk about his voting record. When Cole took office our national debt was $6.198 trillion dollars. Today, it is $30.499 trillion dollars (that is not counting the unfunded debt, social security, or Medicare liabilities). This is unsustainable. That is every taxpayer paying $242,985 dollars to pay it off.
"Instead of trying to cut spending, Cole has raised the debt ceiling and voted for Continuing Resolutions. Voting on Continuing Resolutions means Congress failed to do their job and create a budget.”
Asked to identify three essential issues facing the nation, the state and the district, he reflected:
"There are multiple issues facing the citizens of our great state and nation. These are not in any order. The economy, with its run-away inflation, is hurting everyone – trying to buy food, gas, medicine, pay their bills etc., is becoming increasingly more difficult to do.
“Another would be the border disaster. I believe we should close our southern border until we can get a handle on what is happening. The photos make it seem as if we are a third world country. There is no telling how many people have crossed the border, that want to do us harm.
"Finally, election integrity must be fixed. If it is not, we will never have fair elections again. I could list government over-reach from mask mandates to vaccine mandates, and forcing Critical Race Theory on to our nations students. There is so much that is going on that could be listed."
Teaching and Preaching
Sharing life experiences that he believes qualify him you the office, he reflected on both of his chosen professions -- teacher and preacher.
Taylor recalled, briefly, his experience last fall, when he was forced out of his tenured teaching position (along with four others) in the Oklahoma City public schools. (Still another young teacher, who did not have tenure, was also dismissed.)
He said, "I am a history teacher who … teaches the Constitution to my students. I have a teachable spirit, which allows me to be able to learn and apply new information to determine outcomes.
"I am also the Senior Pastor of Christ’s Church of Norman. Being a Pastor requires me to be able to deal with people with compassion. It enables me to help meet their needs and try to come up with a solution to problems. I fight for my rights, and I fight for people’s rights.
"Just as I stood up to a tyrannical school district, I will stand up for the people of Oklahoma, not just specific groups of Oklahomans."
Taylor's wife, Rapheala, has served as co-pastor for their congregation. The couple have four adult children, two foster children (whom they are adopting) and four grandchildren.
Will the fourth time be a charm for Taylor?
In his 2018 Republican primary challenge of Rep. Cole, Taylor garnered 35.26 percent of the vote -- with 30,461 supporters. His support came at a campaign cost of 16 cents per vote, whereas the incumbent spent about $17 a vote, gaining 64.74 percent (55,929). That year, 86,390 people voted in the GOP primary.
In 2020, traditional campaign activities such as door-to-door vote contact was limited during the peak of COVID's impact. Despite all the tumult of that year, Taylor ran again.
With 72,790 votes cast in all, he and two other primary candidates had roughly one-fourth of the vote, as Cole cruised to the nomination.
Taylor and Cole (both based in Norman) and a third candidate (Frank W. Blacke of Oklahoma City) will square off in the June 28 Republican primary.
If no candidate secures 50 percent of the vote, there will be an August 23 primary election.
The GOP choice will face the Democratic nominee, Mary Brannon of Washington, in the November general election.
Correction made: This story was revised to accurately reflect a 'per vote' spending analysis for the 2018 GOP primary.
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