Updated 2:09 p.m. | Raúl R. Labrador is a candidate for majority leader.
Labrador announced his decision in a news release Friday afternoon. The Idaho Republican faces an uphill battle to defeat Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, who is seen as the overwhelming favorite for the position .
After Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, decided not to run , a number of conservative lawmakers turned to Labrador to be their candidate. And after Rules Chairman Pete Sessions dropped out of the race Thursday night , McCarthy was unopposed.
Labrador’s candidacy changes that. A sophomore from Idaho, Labrador’s national profile is limited. But he’s seen as a rising star in the eyes of a number of conservative lawmakers and outside groups. Earlier Friday, FreedomWorks issued a statement urging Labrador to jump in the race.
Labrador will certainly be a conservative alternative to McCarthy, and he instantly attracts 40 or so of the most hard-line, right-wing lawmakers in the GOP conference. But his campaign will depend heavily on attracting a larger swath of members than just his conservative friends.
Outside conservative voices, such as Rush Limbaugh and Erick Erickson, could help pressure Republican members to vote for Labrador, but the secret ballot nature of the majority leader election means lawmakers will have cover from conservative criticism.
Still, the secret ballot also means that all the commitments McCarthy has been lining up don’t guarantee victory.
An ideological purist, Labrador has been in his element voting "no" on a number of spending bills — he was recently the lone member to vote against the Military Construction-VA appropriations bill — but even holds some positions that raise eyebrows among conservatives.
Although he led the charge against the House GOP’s effort to pass immigration proposals this year, Labrador consistently calls himself pro-immigration, so much so that Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, seemed to signal his opposition in a tweet earlier Friday, calling Labrador “pro amnesty.”
Labrador was a member of the “gang of eight” on immigration, though he ended up quitting the group.
While Labrador is a proud member of the so-called Hell No Caucus, he was increasingly casting himself as a bridge between the right-wing and leadership. As his statement indicated, Labrador was close with Cantor.
Here's the full release:
“I was stunned when Eric Cantor lost his primary election earlier this week. Eric is a good friend and I have tremendous respect for him. But the message from Tuesday is clear — Americans are looking for a change in the status quo. “I want a House Leadership team that reflects the best of our conference. A leadership team that can bring the Republican conference together. A leadership team that can help unite and grow our party. Americans don’t believe their leaders in Washington are listening and now is the time to change that. “Republicans need to address the growing challenges of immobility amongst the poor, insecurity in the middle class and stop protecting the special interests at the top. We must ensure every American has an equal opportunity to succeed, that they are treated fairly not only by the laws we pass in Congress, but by our political system. We must restore the proper role of government to create space for free markets and civil society to prosper and flourish. And we have to unify the country around the values we share, the ideas we all support, and solutions we can agree on. President Obama and the Democrats have had their chance and they have failed. Republicans must be willing to take these challenges head on with new leadership, fresh ideas, and a different approach. I am running for Majority Leader because I want to help create a vision of growth and opportunity for everyone and start getting to work for the American people.”
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