Rep. Mike Pence, who is rumored to be eyeing a presidential or gubernatorial bid in 2012, announced Wednesday that he will step down as chairman of the House Republican Conference, kicking off a race to succeed him at the job.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter Wednesday, the Indiana Republican told members he had fulfilled his commitment to the Conference and that it is time to move on.
“After two consecutive losses for our party, the Republican Leader asked me to help lead House Republicans back to the majority, and I felt it was my duty to do so. I have always believed people should keep their promises and complete the assignments they have been given. As you recall, that’s why I declined offers to run for the U.S. Senate in the middle of my term as Chairman,” Pence wrote.
“Now that we have restored a Republican majority to the House of Representatives and I have fulfilled my commitment to the Republican Conference, my family and I have begun to look to the future.”
Rep. Jeb Hensarling is considered a top contender to fill the position.
In a statement Wednesday, the Texas Republican announced his candidacy for Pence’s spot.
“Let me be clear: I have seen first-hand what happens when a party loses its way and ceases to live what it espouses. I fought it then and am committed to ensuring it never happens again,” he said.
Hensarling put off a run for the Conference chairmanship in 2008 after Pence got in the race. Pence is expected to put his support behind Hensarling, according to several GOP sources.
Hensarling has strong conservative credentials, which could prove advantageous in what will be a more conservative Conference next year. He formerly served as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, is a solid fundraiser and has close relationships with party leaders.