Rep. Paul Cook
Tim Donnelly

The race for the 8th Congressional District that includes Highland is a rarity. It is one of only three congressional districts in the country that has only Republican candidates.

Incumbent Paul Cook, R-Apple Valley, won the June 5 primary with 40.8 percent of the vote. Former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican from Twin Peaks, came in second with 22.8 percent, beating Marge Doyle by 1,258 votes out of nearly 110,000 votes cast. She was one of three Democrats on the ballot.

Under California’s primary system, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election runoff. The other Republican-only races are in Georgia and North Carolina, where no Democrats sought the offices.

Cook, who retired as a colonel after 26 years in the Marines, is endorsed by President Trump. But he’s not conservative enough for Donnelly.

In a radio ad broadcast in May, Donnelly said he decided to challenge Cook when he saw that Cook scored an F on Mark Levin’s Conservative Review. He had a “liberty score” of 44 percent.

“That means he voted against us, against conservative values, 56 percent of the time,” Donnelly said. “Mr. Cook was a ‘never-Trumper’ who recently jumped on the ‘me-too Trump train,’ but he voted to use our military funds for sex change surgeries. I’m sorry, if we’re going to use taxpayer funds to rearrange plumbing, it ought to be on my son’s 50-year-old ship in the Coast Guard.”

When Cook was first elected to Congress in 2012, he defeated another Republican, Gregg Imus by 14 percentage points. In 2014, Cook beat Democrat Bob Conaway with 67.6 percent of the vote, according to the California secretary of state office.

Donnelly challenged Cook in 2016, but lost in the primary. Cook beat Democrat Rita Ramirez with nearly two-thirds of the vote in the general election.

Both candidates have served in the Assembly. Cook represented the 65th Assembly District from 2006 until he termed out in 2012.

Donnelly was elected to represent District 59 in 2010. He was re-elected in 2012 after it was changed to District 33. He ran for governor in 2014, coming in third out of 18 candidates in the primary.

Donnelly founded the Minutemen, a group that patrols border areas for illegal immigrants, and has tried to revive the effort. He calls for full repeal of the Affordable Care Act and elimination of the IRS and the federal Department of Education.

He has been endorsed by Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican.

Cook is a strong supporter of reducing government regulations, simplifying the tax code and eliminating estate taxes.  

Cook has praised Hesperia, Yucaipa and Barstow for “taking a stand against the ludicrous state law — SB 54 — which bans state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials, thus creating a safe haven for criminals,” he said on his website. The Highland City Council voted against sanctuary cities in May.

Cook worked with Rep. Pete Aguilar, a Redlands Democrat, on a bill that would approve a land exchange in the Santa Ana River wash to increase environmental protections and expand mining areas.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Cook has raised $891,636 and had $553,566 on hand to spend as of Sept. 30. Donnelly raised $161,606 and had $8,426 to spend.

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