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Opinion | There’s plenty of blame to go around in the David Cole case

David Cole will pay a steep price for his election fraud. But he’s not the only one who should be ashamed.

State Rep. David Cole's mugshot on the Madison County Sheriff Office's website.
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For the life of me, I don’t understand why David Cole didn’t just drop out of the race. 

He could have. So many times, he could have bailed out of the House District 10 race, chalked it all up to bad legal advice and taken another run at it in a couple of years. 

And no one – absolutely no one – would have pursued it. 

No one would have questioned whether he actually lived in the district where he voted. No one would have asked about his property tax records. No one would have cared. 

And on Tuesday, David Cole, a successful physician and veteran, wouldn’t have been arrested on a Class C felony for voting outside of his district – a charge that only came about because Cole insisted on moving forward with a campaign for a seat in a district where he didn’t live. 

But while Cole is paying a steep price for his arrogance and indifference to the laws of the state he sought to serve – he’ll likely be forced to give up his medical license over this – Cole is far from the only one who deserves to catch some heat from this ordeal. 

Let’s start at the beginning. 

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I was the first to report on Cole’s weird residency issues last October, a few weeks prior to the November general election. The way that story came about was a simple email asking if I had heard about a residency challenge involving Cole that his challenger in the ALGOP primary race had filed. 

Anson Knowles, who was running on the Republican ticket for the District 10 seat, raised the issue of Cole’s residency the previous February. The result: he got kicked off the ballot because of his past activity within the Libertarian Party. 

Knowles was heated. And he fired off emails and letters and press statements in the weeks afterward letting people know that he felt ALGOP officials had ignored real evidence against Cole and were instead covering for a guy they thought could be easily elected in a military-heavy voting district. 

So, I decided to take a quick look. Honestly, I didn’t even want to, because such disputes are typically more trouble than they’re worth to look into. You end up spending hours of time you don’t have to wind up in a he said-he said dispute that goes nowhere. 

But the front end info is relatively easy to find. All I needed was the address Cole used to qualify and his property tax records, so I took a look. To be eligible, Cole would have been required to live in District 10 no later than November 2021. 


According to all information, Cole and his family still lived at the home in District 4. Or, at least, they still claimed that address as their primary residence on tax documents. 

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Not only that, but the address Cole had listed on his qualifying papers was owned by a different person. And neither home had been sold or leased within the last 12 months, according to real estate records. 

Definitely weird. 

As luck would have it, I live only a few miles away from both addresses. So, while out running some errands a few days later, I took a drive by both places. 

At the home in District 10, I found a man who definitely wasn’t David Cole cutting grass. As I drove by the home in District 4, I saw Cole out front walking the family dog. 

I was pretty sure I knew what I was seeing. 

I should mention here that in what seems like a different life, I began my reporting career as a sports writer. I’ve written plenty about high school coaches doing all they can to skirt zoning rules and entice top athletes to attend their schools instead of the one they should. (My favorite was a kid whose family lived in a half-million dollar home in one town but listed a single-wide trailer that wasn’t connected to electricity in another town as their actual residence. The coach swore he verified that residency.)

So, I know a thing or two about people lying about addresses. And I suspected Cole was lying. 

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I got in touch with his campaign and told them my suspicions, and I provided some of the evidence that led me to those suspicions. 

This is where most people would have bailed on the whole charade. Because at this point, you start to get into serious trouble. If Cole wasn’t living at his District 4 home, he was looking at tax problems. If he was, he was looking at voter registration problems (because he’d already registered and voted in District 10 using the bogus address). 

Instead, he dug in. 

His campaign sent me a copy of a lease that he allegedly had with the homeowner of the District 10 home. He would later admit in a deposition that the lease was for no bedrooms and no bathrooms. Just “space.” 

It was ludicrous. Honestly, when I received a copy of the lease, along with the explanation that Cole and his family were living in the home WITH the homeowner and his wife, I couldn’t believe it. So much so that I sent the campaign a follow-up message asking if they were absolutely sure this was the explanation they wanted to go with. 

It was. 

Cole won the election. He was certified. He was seated. 

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All of that despite everyone in the Alabama Republican Party – a party that had spent the last two years talking about election integrity and securing voting processes – knowing full well that Cole had, at best, skirted residency requirements and had likely committed some level of fraud in doing so. 

They didn’t care. 

In fact, they so much didn’t care that after an election challenge was filed by Elijah Boyd, a Libertarian candidate who lost to Cole in the general election, and the challenge was exposing, – under oath – just how absurd Cole’s residency issues were, some Republicans in the House attempted to sneak through a change to state election laws to get Cole out of trouble. 

For real. A guy on their side had been caught not following the law and now they wanted to just change the law. 

The law change was eventually and very quietly stripped out of the bill, but the message was clear. And there was never any faith that the House was ever going to take up the election challenge and hold a formal hearing. 

Why would anyone expect that? At every turn, Cole was encouraged to keep up this charade. From the very start, when someone – because we all know this wasn’t Cole’s idea – convinced Cole to use a fake address, through the primary challenge to the election challenge, the lawmakers and officials who were supposed to protect the integrity of our election processes failed at almost every step. 

In fact, and I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but the only people who stood their ground in this case were the Alabama Supreme Court, which turned Cole away repeatedly, and AG Steve Marshall, who did his job and prosecuted Cole the same way an average voter would be prosecuted for the same crime. 

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Everyone else should be ashamed that it ever got this far. 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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