Coup Brews Against NRCC Chairman
While most Republicans are focused on Tuesday’s midterms, some members are already eyeing another race: The battle to be the next chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The current NRCC chairman, Greg Walden of Oregon, wants to run for another term at the helm of the committee — and House GOP insiders say he’s still their pick. But Reps. Roger Williams of Texas and Aaron Schock of Illinois have shown interest in challenging Walden for the chairmanship for the 2016 cycle.
Neither have officially announced, but both men are making waves on Capitol Hill ahead of a post-election, conference-wide vote for chairman. An announcement from Williams might be imminent.
“If we choose to do this, I don’t think anybody will be surprised,” Williams told CQ Roll Call Tuesday.
Williams noted he’d been in contact with every GOP member in some fashion — frequently via text message. He said those messages have, at least purportedly, been more focused on cheering House Republicans to a historic 245-seat majority.
“This certainly is a year that we should gain a tremendous amount of seats,” Williams said.
The sixth year of a presidency typically marks a strong cycle for the party not occupying the White House. Currently, the House GOP is poised to pick up at least six seats on Election Day.
Schock fueled speculation about his own candidacy this weekend, in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. But sources on Capitol Hill and beyond have been monitoring his interest in the position for months.
This cycle, the Illinois Republican campaigned in 41 districts and is on track to have donated around $500,000 to colleagues and challengers by Election Day, according to a Schock source. Schock has transferred or raised $2 million for the NRCC, including his efforts for the committee’s annual fundraising dinner earlier this year.
“For Schock, it’s, ‘Hey remember that time I helped you raise $20,000?’ So, you know, I don’t see Schock doing this for a committee position,” an Illinois Republican operative said. “To me it makes logical sense to do for NRCC chair.”
Williams’s candidacy is also focused on cash — but in a different way.
Since January 2013, the NRCC has raised roughly $125 million. That’s less than the $163 million that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brought in during that same time period.
This has concerned some House GOP members, according to a Washington consultant with ties to Williams. The Williams ally also cited the NRCC’s decision to take out a $20 million line of credit.
“The line of credit is a huge red flag,” the consultant said. “And the minute that was announced, there were members calling Roger expressing their concern about the state of affairs at the NRCC.”
Williams, who is the NRCC’s national finance chairman, suggested the process for that decision could have been better.
“Unfortunately, on that particular issue, we were never contacted,” Williams said. “I don’t think any business, regardless of what it is, wants to go in debt, or should go into debt.”
However, every campaign committee usually secures credit or takes out loans in the final weeks of a campaign cycle.
An NRCC aide told CQ Roll Call that the committee will not take out a loan larger than it did in 2012. In that cycle, the committee finished the campaign $12 million in the red.
The source further added the topic was discussed with House GOP leadership and in the committee’s weekly meetings for its vice chairmen.
Williams, who was a key fundraiser for President George W. Bush, rejected the notion that he was already running a campaign for the position but acknowledged he’d do things differently at the NRCC.
He said he’d start from the position that Republicans reach for the stars on offense.
“I’m a half-full guy,” he said. “My whole goal would be to start to get every single seat. . . . I mean, that’s the way I think.”
He also brought up his record as a fundraiser — “I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t know my track record” — and he noted that, unlike many other members, he actually enjoys fundraising.
While Williams has a long history as a political fundraiser, some worry how savvy he’d be as NRCC chairman. For instance, a senior GOP leadership aide chided Williams for contending Republicans ought to look at every House seat as a potential race.
“It’s hard to imagine any experienced political operative wouldn’t question the notion of playing in every single congressional district,” the aide said. “That kind of comment demonstrates the level of political sophistication he would bring to the table.”
Walden, who served as NRCC deputy chairman for two terms, has traveled 120,000 miles across 35 states and visited in 78 cities on behalf of 100 members.
“Chairman Walden is fully focused on electing Republican candidates on Nov. 4,” NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said. “He is consistently out on the campaign trail helping candidates all across the country and appreciates how many of his colleagues are stepping up to help in very effective and positive ways.”
Speaker John A. Boehner has made no qualms about his support for Walden to remain chairman of the NRCC in the 114th Congress. CQ Roll Call reported in July that Boehner had affirmed his support for Walden in leadership meetings.
The Ohio Republican’s political communications director, Cory Fritz, told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday that Walden was “working tirelessly” on behalf of Republican candidates and was “a big reason” the GOP has an opportunity to win a larger House majority.
But Williams said no one had discouraged him from running for the position.
“I have not been discouraged at all,” Williams said. “I think that Speaker Boehner and leadership wants to put the best team on the field.”
Whether Williams or Schock gain traction will likely depend on how many seats the GOP picks up next week. Some Republicans said Walden’s committee must net a minimum of six seats to avoid trouble after November.
“It’s all about what happens on Tuesday,” a plugged-in GOP Hill operative said.
Emily Cahn and Abby Livingston contributed to this report.