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Green Beret vet with criminal history running for Congress: ‘Society is pushing to elect real people’

Green Berets conduct urban movement training on July 18, 2019, at Fort Bragg N.C. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Peter Seidler)
April 11, 2022

A retired U.S. Army Green Beret is running for a U.S. congressional seat in North Carolina, despite a history of criminal arrests. He says his history makes him relatable as society is pushing to elect “real people.”

Tony Cowden is running as a Republican candidate for North Carolina’s 3rd congressional. In an interview with Fox News on Saturday, the 46-year-old Cowden was open about his military service and his past run-ins with the law. Cowden said he sees his arrest record as “nothing embarrassing” and even a detail some voters “can relate to.”

Cowden reportedly served 22 years in the special operations community, including eight years directly in the military and now owns a gym.

Between the mid-1990s and 2018, Cowden had been arrested for multiple offenses, including a DUI, DWI and driving without a license and damaging to personal property. Cowden was also arrested in 2007 for an assault on a female, and for assault and battery and making threats in 2016.

The 2007 assault case was closed shortly after it had been opened. Cowden explained that he had gotten into an argument with his ex-wife at the time and neighbors called the police on them. Cowden said he and his ex-wife were having dinner together when she became upset and “started throwing things and broke some household items.” Cowden said she also bit him and the officer who wrote the arrest report said he saw “faint marks” on Cowden’s arm, but could not be sure what caused them. Cowden’s ex-wife told police he had “assaulted her, but didn’t say where,” and the officer saw no “signs of assault on her.” His ex-wife later swore before a judge that there was no assault. Cowden said he has “never struck a female” in his life and the 2007 arrest record lists both Cowden and his ex-wife as victims in the case.

In the 2016 assault and threats case, a man by the name of Ronaldo Ezequiel Martinez alleged Cowden had communicated threats and committed assault and battery against him. No police report is available for the 2016 incident and New Hanover County Lt. Deputy Jerry Brewer told Fox News that Martinez may directly request an arrest warrant from a magistrate.

A judge ultimately dismissed the 2016 charges against Cowden and in 2019, Martinez plead guilty to a two-count first-degree burglary charge from 2017.

“It was a rival gym owner down the street,” Cowden said of his 2016 interaction with Martinez. We had an argument, and he was a vindictive young fella.”

“If you look at physical Martinez, he’s currently in prison,” Cowden added.
“. . . So the fella who went down to the magistrate and told the magistrate that I struck him — not the most credible person.”

Cowden admits “the charge is there” but said the underlying incident took place in front of a North Carolina highway patrolman and noted no charge came about until after Martinez went to a magistrate. Cowden said “when the magistrate interviewed them, the charges were dissolved. It never went to court.”

As for Cowden’s DUI charge, he admitted there was no mistake in the charge.

“With the DUI, yeah, young and dumb. No better explanation,” he told Fox News.

Cowden said at the time of the DUI charge he had “no real purpose in life,” and it was “before I joined the military.” Cowden said it was actually his DUI episode that inspired him to change his life and join the Army.

“I actually stopped drinking,” Cowden said. “I don’t drink alcohol or party or anything like that.”

Cowden indicated he’s not shy about his past.

“My record’s my record . . . and I’ve always been very honest with it,” Cowden told Fox News. “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.”

Cowden said he didn’t have “any interest in politics whatsoever” until recently, when he launched the nonprofit group American Oath Initiative (AOI) to help other veterans candidates kickstart their political careers.

On his campaign website, Cowden describes himself as a “principled conservative.” He lists “balancing the budget” and “securing the border” as a couple of his campaign platforms. Cowden says “all gun laws are infringements” and one of the first things he would do in office is present legislation to legalize suppressors and “short-barreled rifles.”

“A representative shouldn’t be bought or paid for by a corporation,” Cowden told Fox News. “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?”

Cowden is one of several Republican candidates running in the GOP primary for the 3rd Congressional district. He faces incumbent Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC), who has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, as well as fellow challengers Eric Earhart, Brian Friend and George Papstrat.