Elise Stefanik Passes On Chance To Move Up In House GOP Leadership

·4 min read
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), left, and Rep Steve Scalise (R-La.), center, are seen after a press conference in June. Stefanik, the party conference chair, had been talked about as a candidate to succeed Scalise in the next higher slot of party whip, but she said Tuesday she will instead run to stay in her current leadership post. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images)
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), left, and Rep Steve Scalise (R-La.), center, are seen after a press conference in June. Stefanik, the party conference chair, had been talked about as a candidate to succeed Scalise in the next higher slot of party whip, but she said Tuesday she will instead run to stay in her current leadership post. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images)

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), left, and Rep Steve Scalise (R-La.), center, are seen after a press conference in June. Stefanik, the party conference chair, had been talked about as a candidate to succeed Scalise in the next higher slot of party whip, but she said Tuesday she will instead run to stay in her current leadership post. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images)

Rep. Elise Stefanik, the Republican lawmaker from New York who went from a Paul Ryan acolyte to a fervent Donald Trump supporter as her political star rose, said Tuesday she is passing on a chance to move up the party leadership ladder.

Stefanik said she will seek reelection to the post of GOP conference chair, the fourth-ranking job in the party when it holds the majority, as Republicans hope to do after the November midterms. By doing so, she turned down a chance to run for party whip, the third-ranking post and a much more visible spot in leadership.

“For the next 56 days, I’m laser-focused on working to ensure we earn a historic Republican Majority,” Stefanik said in a statement. “I am proud to have unified the entire Republican Conference around our country in crisis message and shattered fundraising records as House GOP Conference Chair raising over $10M for candidates and committees this cycle.”

“With the broad support of NY21 and my House GOP colleagues, I intend to run for Conference Chair in the next Congress,” she said.

Stefanik’s announcement could set off a domino effect in the whip race, which had been seen as a potential four-way contest between Stefanik; Chief Deputy Whip Rep. Drew Ferguson (Ga.); Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.), chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee; and Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the House GOP’s biggest caucus group.

Stefanik’s absence from that race could bring some clarity to the field. While Republicans are wary of appearing too eager to “measure the drapes” and be seen as overconfident about retaking House control, candidates have likely been having quiet, backroom conversations with potential supporters to gauge their sentiments. Nonetheless, formal declarations in the past have waited until the day after Election Day.

With the broad support of NY21 and my House GOP colleagues, I intend to run for Conference Chair in the next Congress.Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), House Republican conference chair

Stefanik, 38, rose to prominence as a former George W. Bush White House policy wonk. Later, she was in charge of prepping former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for his 2012 vice presidential debate. She was elected to Congress in 2014 and enjoyed a reputation as a moderate, policy-savvy lawmaker.

But with Trump’s rise, Stefanik recalibrated her approach, staking out a confrontational stance similar to Trump’s and eventually echoing his lie that the 2020 election was rigged against him. With Trump’s public endorsement, she easily won the race to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) as the conference chair in May 2021.

Stefanik’s higher profile also brought more scrutiny, leading to criticism when she initially blamed an infant formula shortage on “pedo grifters.” And her rhetoric on immigration prompted the editorial page of the Albany Times Union to wonder “how low” she could go.

But Stefanik didn’t shy away from controversy, and neither did her highest-profile endorsement in the 2022 election cycle: Carl Paladino, who ran for a congressional seat in western New York state. Paladino lost his primary to a more moderate candidate.

Stefanik’s announcement came only hours after reports that Rep. Byron Donalds (Fla.) plans to formally announce Thursday that he will run for the conference chair position. Donalds is one of two Black lawmakers in the House GOP conference.

Given Stefanik’s brief tenure so far in the chair job ― just a little over a year ― and the overwhelming tally in her initial victory, she would be favored to keep the post. A senior Republican source said Stefanik had locked up key endorsements and those of many in the conference members in less than an hour on Tuesday.

“And she hasn’t even hit the floor yet,” the source said.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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