Elise Stefanik and Chip Roy vie for House GOP leadership post
New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who is considered the frontrunner, made her pitch to House Republicans in a candidate forum Thursday evening. Congressman Chip Roy, of Texas, is also running.
Stefanik has support from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, prominent Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan and Mr. Trump himself.
After Thursday’s candidate forum, Stefanik said she knew the vote count and she believes she is “in a strong position going into tomorrow.” Stefanik said she focused on unifying the conference and retaking the majority when she spoke to GOP members at the forum, and highlighted her status as a swing district Republican.
Congresswoman Ashley Hinson nominated Stefanik for conference chair, saying in remarks that Stefanik “is the right person to unify us so that we can best tell it to the American people.” Hinson, a freshman from Iowa, was supported by Stefanik’s PAC focused on electing Republican women to Congress.
“Her leadership inspired dozens of women to step up and run. Many of those women are sitting in this room today. Elise cares about this conference. She cares about the future of this party,” Hinson said in her remarks.
Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus is also launching a bid, a Roy spokesperson told CBS News. His office said in a statement Wednesday that Roy was “not ruling anything out,” arguing that “this must be a contested race — not a coronation.”
After Thursday’s forum, Roy reiterated that he is challenging Stefanik because “we should have debate. I think we should have votes.” Roy had issued a memo on Tuesday saying that he would not support Stefanik, citing her vote against Mr. Trump’s 2017 tax proposal.
In a statement earlier Thursday evening, Mr. Trump reiterated his support for Stefanik.
“Can’t imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy—he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district. I support Elise, by far, over Chip!” Mr. Trump said. According to FiveThiryEight, Roy voted with Trump’s position 89.5% of the time, and Stefanik voted with Trump’s position 77.7% of the time.
According to Republican conference rules, each member had two minutes to make a statement, followed by 15 minutes of question and answer. Conference vice chair Mike Johnson presided over the forum.
Congressman Ken Buck, another member of the Freedom Caucus, told reporters on Wednesday that he believed Stefanik was a “liberal” and said he would not support her. When asked who he would prefer to support for conference chair, Buck indicated that he would prefer anyone else.
“How many members do we have? 212? Probably 211. Actually, not me. So 210,” Buck joked. Buck nominated Roy for the post.
But Jordan has pointed out that Stefanik has been a staunch supporter of Mr. Trump, and said that he believed she would be able to effectively represent the positions of House Republicans. Stefanik was one of the former president’s most vocal supporters during the 2019 impeachment trial, and has been called a “star” by Mr. Trump.
“She’s an effective communicator,” Jordan told reporters on Tuesday.
Stefanik spoke with members of the Freedom Caucus on Wednesday evening, seeking to assuage some concerns. But she has noted that she already has support from a significant portion of the conference.
Stefanik said Wednesday afternoon she “absolutely” believes she has a majority of votes to be conference chair even if someone else jumps in the race. Speaking to reporters, she cited support from Freedom Caucus, the Republican Study Committee and the more moderate Tuesday group.
Asked about her message to members of the Freedom Caucus on Wednesday night, Stefanik said, “We have a lot of support from individual members in the Freedom Caucus.”
“I think it’s important that the conference chair listen to all members of the conference,” Stefanik said.
Zak Hudak contributed to this report.