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Rep. Gregg Harper is making a play to become Republican Conference Secretary, turning the race for the post into the only three-way GOP leadership contest so far, his spokesman confirmed Monday.
The two-term Mississippi lawmaker will face Reps. Virginia Foxx (N.C.) and Jeff Denham (Calif.) to take over the role from Conference Secretary John Carter (Texas), who has served in the post since 2007.
Harper started calling colleagues before the August recess to round up support but began having more serious conversations during the break, his spokesman, Adam Buckalew, said.
A main thrust of his pitch, Buckalew said, is that since he entered Congress, Harper has served as his class representative on the House Republican Steering Committee, which doles out committee assignments.
"His colleagues have placed trust and confidence in him to represent their committee interest on the Republican Steering Committee for the 111th and 112th Congress," Buckalew said. "The Congressman feels that he's been able to make a positive difference in the Republican Conference for past two Congresses by helping position his colleagues on committees where they are able to contribute and govern in an effective manner."
As the sixth-ranking position in Republican leadership, Conference Secretary is generally considered a low-wattage assignment.
That said, it is a seat at the leadership table and could be a springboard to higher leadership posts. For instance, former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) began his leadership tenure as Conference Secretary.