Cowboy brothers ride 'Amazing Race' fame, run for office

AP News
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Posted: Jun 12, 2016 11:39 AM
Cowboy brothers ride 'Amazing Race' fame, run for office

ADA, Okla. (AP) — When he wants to go unnoticed in public, Jet McCoy sheds the black cowboy hat he donned for three seasons on "The Amazing Race" in favor of a regular ball cap.

"It would take me 45 minutes to get out of Wal-Mart," the 36-year-old rancher said of the attention he received after first appearing with his younger brother on the reality TV show in 2010.

But McCoy's trademark cowboy hat was squarely on his head Wednesday as he knocked on doors in Ada to drum up interest in a new venture where that kind of name recognition comes in handy: state politics. McCoy and his brother, Cord McCoy, are looking to capitalize on their fame as cowboys turned reality stars by pursuing seats in the Oklahoma Legislature — one as a Republican and the other a Democrat.

Jet has been campaigning for the Republican nomination in Democratic-leaning Senate District 13 since last year. Cord, a retired professional bull rider who was Jet's partner on "The Amazing Race," filed as a Democrat for House District 18 on the last day because he saw an opportunity against an incumbent Democrat with no general election opponent.

Cord, 35, said he's been a Democrat since he was old enough to vote and had been considering a foray into politics for years. His grandfather, Ray Tucker, served in the Oklahoma House in the early 1960s. Tucker died when Cord was a young child, but Cord said he meets McAlester-area residents on the campaign trail who share stories with him about the grandfather and lawmaker he never really knew.

"He left an awesome legacy behind — that is the only trail I know of my grandpa," Cord said.

Jet had a head start on campaigning and his signs line the main roadway entering Ada from Oklahoma City about 65 miles to the northwest, including a painted horse trailer on a prominent plot of land owned by another family member. He's been canvassing neighborhoods in Ada and Pauls Valley, including Wednesday when he knocked on the door of Duane Hysten, a 54-year-old Ada resident who works in food service for a local school district.

Hysten said he's frustrated with the direction of his Republican party, particularly on the national congressional level. He said the Republican-controlled Legislature could do better by Oklahomans if it took more time to deliberate publicly on important issues like the state budget, which the state House passed on the same day lawmakers adjourned for the year.

"I don't like seeing so many issues passed at the end of the session," Hysten said.

The McCoys are just the latest reality TV personalities to use their fame to launch bids for public office. Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, of Wisconsin, was elected to Congress after appearances on "The Real World" and a stint as a district attorney. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee and real-estate businessman Donald Trump launched his ongoing campaign after starring for years on "The Apprentice."

Jet's path to the state Capitol is crowded — three Republicans and two Democrats are vying for an open seat in the Democratic-leaning district.

Cord's path is simpler, though not necessarily easier. If he can snatch the Democratic nomination away from six-year incumbent state Rep. Donnie Condit in the June 28 primary, he'd face a clear path to victory, as no Republican is running for the seat.

Both brothers have said their time in the cattle business gives them an idea of how to make tough financial decisions in an Oklahoma industry with small margins. They have also said their experience circumnavigating the globe three times during "The Amazing Race" has afforded them a uniquely cosmopolitan perspective.

"I know how much we have to be thankful for," Cord McCoy said. "There's whole countries of people starving that don't get to step up on June 28 and vote."

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Follow Daniel C. Houston on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Daniel_Houston