NC congressional candidate, Green Beret with lengthy arrest record says there's a 'push to elect real people'

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North Carolina Republican congressional candidate Tony Cowden has a lengthy arrest history, but the former Green Beret believes his record is “nothing embarrassing,” and it might even be a detail that some voters “can relate to.”

“My record’s my record … and I’ve always been very honest with it,” Cowden said. “Throughout my entire career, I’ve helped a lot of young soldiers who get themselves into trouble. … People do dumb things and get themselves in trouble.”

He added later that “there’s a huge push in our society right now to elect real people or normal people,” and “the word politician, these days, is not a nice word.”

Cowden, a 46-year-old small business owner and veteran who served for eight years in the military and 22 years in the special operations community, is running to represent North Carolina’s 3rd congressional district, which stretches from the border of Virginia Beach to South Carolina. He never had “any interest in politics whatsoever” until recently, when he began helping other veterans start political careers through his nonprofit, the American Oath Initiative (AOI).

North Carolina congressional candidate Tony Cowden.

North Carolina congressional candidate Tony Cowden.
(Tony Cowden)

“As my deployments to work overseas have become less and less and my business became more and more in the last two years, as everything with the pandemic and the overgrowth of our government — the shrugging off of responsibility and accountability among our representatives and Congress as a whole — my frustrations and my awareness of all the inefficiencies … our federal government is having kind of piqued my interest,” he said. 


But Cowden’s record is atypically long for a candidate running for public office. He has been arrested for a number of offenses, ranging from traffic violations — such a DUI, DWI and driving without a license — to injury to personal property between the mid-1990s and 2018 in Hanover County, Pamlico County, and other areas of North Carolina, county records show.

Cowden was also arrested for an assault on a female in Moore County in 2007 — the case was closed shortly after it was opened — and communicating threats and assault and battery in Hanover County in 2016, but Cowden explained those instances to Fox News Digital, and county records backed up his statements.

North Carolina congressional candidate Tony Cowden.

North Carolina congressional candidate Tony Cowden.
(Tony Cowden)

“With the DUI, yeah, young and dumb. No better explanation. … No real purpose in life, all before I joined the military. And … [I] joined the military and got things together. I actually stopped drinking. I don’t drink alcohol or party or anything like that,” said Cowden, who described himself as a “North Carolina country boy” who “wanted to be in the military.”

As for the alleged assault on a female in 2007, Cowden said he got into an argument with his ex-wife at the time, which prompted neighbors to call police, but he insisted that he has “never struck a female” in his life. The next morning after the neighbors’ phone call to police, an officer arrested Cowden without interviewing Cowden or his ex-wife, he explained.


His ex-wife later swore before a judge that there was no assault.

A Moore County police report from January 2007 lists both Cowden and his ex-wife as victims in the incident.

North Carolina congressional candidate Tony Cowden.

North Carolina congressional candidate Tony Cowden.
(Tony Cowden)

Cowden apparently alleged to police at the time that his ex-wife became upset while they were having dinner together and “started throwing things and broke some household items.” He also told police his ex-wife “bit him” on the arm. The officer who wrote the report said he saw “faint marks” on Cowden’s arm but could not be sure whether it was a bite mark. His ex-wife told police that Cowden had “assaulted her, but didn’t say where,” and the officer saw no “signs of assault on her.”

“There were broken items in the house when I arrived, but female did not say who was throwing items that were broke [sic],” the officer wrote.


The case was closed after authorities interviewed both Cowden and his ex-wife. 

In 2016, a man named Ronaldo Ezequiel Martinez filed a complaint against Cowden for assault and battery and communicating threats. A judge later dismissed those charges, too.

A police report for the incident was unavailable, which suggests Martinez may have taken out his own warrant with a magistrate, according to New Hanover County Lt. Deputy Jerry Brewer. Martinez pleaded guilty in 2019 to two counts of first-degree burglary from 2017 and was sentenced to a minimum of 3 ½ years in prison.

“It was a rival gym owner down the street. We had an argument, and he was a vindictive young fella,” Cowden said. “His name is Ezequiel Martinez. And if you look at physical Martinez, he’s currently in prison. … So the fella who went down to the magistrate and told the magistrate that I struck him — not the most credible person. So, the charge is there, but if you look at it, it was basically just dissolved by the court because the argument took place in front of a North Carolina highway patrolman. So when the magistrate interviewed them, the charges was dissolved. It never went to court.”

While his background may not be pristine, Cowden does not believe his arrests will hurt his candidacy and insisted that the members of his communities know he is a decent person who will serve their interests in Congress. 

The Republican candidate registered as a Democrat at 18 years old until he decided to run for office because, in his words, conservatives in the area of North Carolina where he grew up were “old-school Democrats,” many of whom have since switched tickets as years passed.


Cowden, who describes himself as a conservative, thinks Congress needs to “bolster domestic policy, bolster our economy, increase security and decrease illegal immigration by investing in our southern neighbors.” He also took issue with current leaders in Congress.

“A representative shouldn’t be bought or paid for by a corporation. They’re being elected to represent the people of their district. Not a corporation or big pharma or any of those major corporate players in our government. You know, that’s a huge frustration, right?” he said. 

Cowden is running against incumbent Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., who recently received an endorsement from former President Trump. Other Republican candidates running in the 3rd District include Eric Earhart, Brian Friend and George Papstrat.


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