- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2014

With Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy poised to ascend the House leadership ladder, conservatives are turning their attention to the race to succeed him as their best chance to have one of their own win a high leader’s post.

Rep. Steve Scalise, the current head of the Republican Study Committee, which is the House’s conservative caucus, is running against Rep. Marlin Stutzman and Mr. McCarthy’s deputy, Rep. Peter Roskam, for the post Mr. McCarthy would leave open.

The scramble erupted after current Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost a GOP primary for his House seat last week, igniting calls for Republican leaders to acknowledge the anger among rank-and-file GOP voters by giving the tea party more say in congressional decisions.

“We can’t respond to a stunning loss by giving a pat on the back and promotion to the same team,” said Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who is backing Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho for majority leader.

Even conservative lawmakers who support Mr. McCarthy say they want to see some geographic diversity. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, Mr. Cantor, who is from Virginia, and Mr. McCarthy of California all hail from states carried by President Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

“As a southern congressman, I do think there ought to be someone in leadership from a state that votes for Republicans,” said Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia, who had originally supported Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas for majority leader, but praised both Mr. Sessions and Mr. McCarthy as “conservative gentlemen.”

Mr. Sessions and fellow Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling announced last week they would not seek the leader’s job, leaving Mr. McCarthy a clear path in this week’s vote.

Hoping to head off a coronation, Mr. Labrador announced he would challenge Mr. McCarthy, and FreedomWorks — a group that has been sharply critical of Mr. Boehner and his leadership team — announced its support for him.

But Mr. Labrador suffered somewhat of a setback over the weekend when he presided over a chaotic state party convention in which Idaho Republicans failed to elect a chairman or adopt a platform.

“This is as low as the party can go,” Mr. Labrador told The Associated Press.

In the race for the whip’s post, vote watchers privately give Mr. Scalise a small edge.

Mr. Roskam and Mr. Stutzman fought back in letters they circulated to colleagues.

Mr. Roskam touted his reliably Democratic home state of Illinois as the “birthplace of Reagan and the Land of Lincoln” — but also pledged to keep regional diversity in mind in assembling his team and appoint a deputy from a red state.

“The majority whip race is about the person who has the best ability to engage our members, to advocate for conservative ideas, and to drive our colleagues in the fight to stop Obama administration policies and to enact our smart, conservative ideals,” he wrote.

Mr. Stutzman, of Indiana, pledged in his letter to give members a heads up on votes that are being whipped and timely copies of changes to bills, among other tweaks to the process.

“I’m running because I see the potential to fine-tune our process; to make it leaner and more effective in passing good legislation,” he wrote.

Unlike the race for Speaker of the House — a recorded vote by members of both parties — the leadership contests Thursday will be by secret ballot within the House GOP conference, making it essentially impossible for conservative groups to “score” members’ votes.

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