Lungren’s Vote Count Is a Mystery

Posted November 17, 2008 at 6:42pm

It’s no surprise that Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.) faces an uphill battle in taking on House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) for the top GOP leadership post. But now it looks like the Members who would most likely support him aren’t doing so.

Lungren’s most obvious supporters would be fellow Californians or his more than 100 colleagues in the conservative Republican Study Committee. Yet an informal survey of those Members showed that few, if any, plan to back Lungren in Wednesday’s leadership elections.

Calls to GOP Members in the California delegation Monday resulted in just three lawmakers confirming whom they are supporting: Reps. Ken Calvert, Gary Miller and George Radanovich all said they are supporting Boehner.

Queries to RSC Members resulted in three more Boehner supporters: Reps. Kevin Brady (Texas), Jo Bonner (Ala.) and Henry Brown (S.C.).

From a conservative standpoint, some could argue that Boehner is a better ally given his higher ratings with the American Conservative Union and Club for Growth, said an aide to one conservative Member.

“I don’t see a real base of support,” the aide said of Lungren. “I don’t think anyone is eager to be one [of a handful] to back Lungren and piss off Boehner in the process.”

Lungren’s candidacy is widely viewed as a token one, designed to prevent Boehner from securing a free pass to re-election. In the wake of November’s bruising elections, many House Republicans felt Boehner shouldn’t simply cruise to another two-year term as the Minority Leader.

Yet at this stage, Boehner seems to have a wide base of support within the GOP Conference.

Lungren spokesman Brian Kaveney said Monday that the Members who have been in contact with his boss about his leadership run have been “very positive and supportive of what he is doing.”

Kaveney said he doesn’t have a final tally of supporters but emphasized that many lawmakers are unhappy about not being able to openly discuss the direction of their party before voting in new leaders.

Earlier Monday, Lungren made his case for a shake-up in leadership and said the races should be “a contest rather than a coronation.”

“We have lost two major elections in two successive election years,” Lungren said on MSNBC. “That ought to tell us something, and I don’t think the American people … want us to just act as if nothing has occurred.”

Boehner’s camp would respond only with this statement: “Dan Lungren is a respected member of our Conference and a man deeply committed to the principles that have defined our party since the beginning.”