Vote counts show California’s Kevin McCarthy has all but secured election today as majority leader of the House of Representatives, but Idaho’s Raúl Labrador looks to have made a good impression with heartfelt pleas for support.
During a candidate forum Wednesday morning, Labrador delivered an impassioned speech to the Republican conference.
“I want every member, regardless of what state you come from or whether you meet for lunch on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, to feel like you are relevant again,” he said.
Labrador went on to recall his experience in the Idaho legislature, where he thought he was able to make an important contribution. He told fellow Republicans he hopes to make them more “relevant than the [leadership] staff.”
“If you vote for the status quo tomorrow, you will prove that we are still not listening,” Labrador said. “We will break our pledge and with that we may lose the ability to regain control of the Senate and eventually win the presidency.”
Beginning at 2 p.m., House Speaker John Boehner will assemble his Republican conference to cast secret ballots for a new majority leader, the No. 2 leadership post below that of the Ohioan, and then for majority whip, the No. 3 slot.
Late Tuesday night, Labrador joined other members of the massive class of 2010 – the one elected on the tea party wave. The gathering’s agenda was titled “Will anyone remember the class of 2010?”and made no mention of the McCarthy-Labrador leadership race. Instead, the purpose was to foster discussion on ways to boost communication and cooperation, a memo from the meeting shows.
Labrador seized the opportunity to speak about the sacrifices necessary as public servants, according to attendees’ texts and other reports from the meeting.
The meeting, one party insider said, may have been a way for Labrador and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., who is in a three-way race to replace McCarthy as majority whip, to build support from their mutual class. If so, their efforts likely yielded minimal results, the insider said.
Labrador acknowledges that McCarthy has won the votes of many lawmakers, but also notes that not all are happy with his potential accession. “Remember, it’s a secret ballot and no one – no one – really knows how it’ll go,” Labrador told The Washington Post.
A simple majority – 117 of 233 Republicans – is needed to win.
Events were set in motion last week after Majority Leader Eric Cantor unexpectedly lost his primary in Virginia’s 7th District to challenger Dave Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College. Cantor announced he would resign his leadership post, effective July 31.
Following the election of a successor to Cantor, the GOP lawmakers will turn their attention to the No. 3 slot of majority whip. Three men are vying for that spot: Stutzman, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Peter Roskam of Illinois.
The conventional wisdom largely has written off Stutzman, yet some insiders say he was gaining momentum, especially among fellow conservatives who weren’t thrilled with the prospect of either Scalise or Roskam as their conference’s vote-wrangling whip.
Scalise chairs the 170-member, nominally conservative Republican Study Committee. However, disappointed conservatives view him as too cozy with Boehner’s “establishment” leadership team, and say he has done little to advance the conservative agenda.
They also argue that Roskam, already part of leadership as deputy whip, rarely earns the support of top Republicans and does little for conservatives. At the candidate forum, Stutzman used a baseball team as an example in calling for Republicans to work together.
Although Scalise emerged as the apparent front-runner for whip, an upset is possible. If the top vote-getter fails to gain a majority, he moves into a runoff with the second-place candidate.
Some conservatives are pulling for a Roskam win that bumps him up one spot in leadership. His victory, they reason, would help conservatives mount a case for new leadership after voters go to the polls in November’s midterm elections.