Rep. Chip Roy isn’t ruling out challenging Rep. Elise Stefanik for the job of House Republican Conference chair — but is actively seeking someone else to step up as the alternative to the Donald Trump-endorsed front-runner.
Mr. Roy, a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, told The Washington Times that so far no one wants to be the one to challenge Ms. Stefanik, who remains the only candidate to replace ousted anti-Trump diehard Rep. Liz Cheney.
“I’m having conversions and we’ll see what happens,” Mr. Roy said.
House Republicans will hold a forum later Thursday to hear from candidates for the position.
Mr. Roy, Texas Republican, continues to oppose Ms. Stefanik, who many conservatives view as too moderate.
Ms. Stefanik also is endorsed by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise. The high-powered backing, especially from Mr. Trump, has helped keep challengers at bay.
Republicans could vote as soon as Friday on the new conference chair.
Mr. Roy has raised concerns about Ms. Stefanik being too moderate to replace Ms. Cheney, who was ousted from the leadership post on Wednesday because of her persistent criticism of Mr. Trump and his unsubstantiated charge that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election.
“I don’t think it should just be a coronation,” Mr. Roy said. “I like Elise. But it’s not just one issue. You can track her voting record across, 10, 15, 20 votes.”
Several other conservatives, including Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, raised alarms about Ms. Stefanik‘s voting record, including her vote against the 2017 tax cuts.
Ms. Stefani, though, has said she has enough support from a wide range of Republicans to win. She spoke to the conservative caucus on Wednesday to allay their concerns.
Mr. Roy, citing the privacy of the meeting, refused to describe what she said or whether conservatives still have concerns about her.
With a letter to colleagues Tuesday, Mr. Roy was the first to publicly question the rush to give Ms. Stefanik the job.
“With all due respect to my friend, Elise Stefanik, let us contemplate the message Republican leadership is about to send by rushing to coronate a spokesperson whose voting record embodies much of what led to the 2018 ass-kicking we received by Democrats,” he wrote.
Mr. Roy said in the letter that the party could be better off leaving the position vacant.
Asked about the potential challenges to Ms. Stefanik, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has endorsed her, said it is “always healthy to have debate.”
“Anybody can run,” Mr. McCarthy, of California, told reporters on Capitol Hill.
• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this story.