House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California is gaining momentum very quickly. In the first major leadership shakeup since 2007, McCarthy looks like he is moving up the ladder with little competition.
Yesterday morning, Jeb Hensarling, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, announced he would not challenge McCarthy after “prayfully” weighing the bid. Yesterday evening, Pete Sessions, the Chairman of the House Rules Committee, shocked the country by dropping out of the race only 48 hours after he announced his run.
The pullout by Sessions paved the way for two-term Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho to announce this morning that he would challenge McCarthy. POLITICO reported:
“Labrador, who was elected in 2010, is a late entrant into a race that’s four days old – and the election is less than a week away. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has locked up a huge well of support that will be hard to break.”
Who is Raul Labrador? He is the Puerto Rican-born, 46 year old congressman from Idaho’s 1st district. He earned a B.A. in Spanish from BYU and a J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law. He was an immigration lawyer for ten years before running for public office in 2004. He was also a two-term state representative.
In 2010, he pulled a major upset by defeated the establishment-backed Vaughn Ward in the Republican primary. In November, he defeated Blue Dog Democrat Walt Minnick, a one-term congressman who was so moderate that he was even endorsed by the Tea Party Express, the only Democrat to have such a distinction.
In January 2013, Labrador was one of only 13 Republicans who voted against Boehner for Speaker of the House. In fact, he did not even vote at all. Libertarian Justin Amash actually voted for Labrador to replace Boehner, indicating that he has the backing of libertarians. He refused to tell the press why he did not vote for Boehner.
Being a Hispanic Republican and a former immigration lawyer, Labrador’s signature political issue is immigration reform. His position on the issue is extremely complex. He opposes a pathway to citizenship, but supports a path to legal status. He opposes the Rubio bill, but could support it with certain “triggers.” He criticized Mitt Romney’s self-deportation comment, but says that “we shouldn’t create a second class group that could never become citizens.”
Labrador could become a serious threat to McCarthy if he can create a strong coalition not only of Tea Party favorites and libertarians, but also of Mormons and Hispanics. If elected, he would become the first Mormon majority leader, the first Hispanic majority leader, and the first majority leader from Idaho.
“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.”