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Tea Party Firebrand To Challenge McCarthy For Majority Leader

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, is making a long-shot bid to replace Rep. Eric Cantor as House majority leader.
John Miller
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, is making a long-shot bid to replace Rep. Eric Cantor as House majority leader.

Two-term Idaho Republican Raul Labrador announced Friday that he is throwing his hat into the ring for the chance to replace outgoing Rep. Eric Cantor as House majority leader.

Labrador's candidacy ensures that Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California will not go unchallenged for the chamber's No. 2 leadership spot, which opened up on Tuesday after Cantor's stunning primary loss to Tea Party challenger David Brat.

The fiery, Puerto Rico-born Labrador is closely aligned with the Tea Party. He was first elected in 2010 as part of the Republican wave that flipped control of the lower chamber to the GOP. He's been an outspoken critic of the party's leadership and was one of a handful of rank-and-file members who did not vote for John Boehner to return to the speaker's post in January 2013.

He says he was "stunned" by Cantor's failed primary bid.

"Eric is a good friend, and I have tremendous respect for him," the Idaho Republican said in a statement Friday. "But the message from Tuesday is clear — Americans are looking for a change in the status quo."

With Labrador's entry into the race, it gives the most conservative faction of the Republican caucus an alternative to the GOP establishment represented by McCarthy, the current House majority whip.

Labrador said he wants to see a House leadership team "that reflects the best of our conference ... [and] 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," he said.

By most expectations, Labrador is a long shot to win the job as majority leader. McCarthy, by most reports, has all but sewn up the support necessary to prevail in the June 19 secret ballot.

Labrador's candidacy, though, provides another test of how unified the GOP conference is and whether the most conservative wing of the party can be successful in cracking the House leadership ranks.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.