Elise Stefanik to seek second term as House GOP chair, not whip

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) announced that she will seek another term as House Republican Conference chair on Tuesday, ending months of speculation that she might seek the position of House majority whip if Republicans win control of the chamber.

“For the next 56 days, I’m laser-focused on working to ensure we earn a historic Republican Majority. 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,” Stefanik said in a statement on Tuesday.

Stefanik had long held her cards close to the vest on her plans for next year, often saying that she was focused on winning back the majority.

Her announcement of her intention to seek a second term as House GOP chair came shortly after news leaked that Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) planned to host an event on Thursday to formally launch his own bid, which his office confirmed to The Hill.

Donalds, one of only two Black House Republicans in the current Congress, told The Hill Tuesday evening that he is still running for Chair despite Stefanik’s announcement.

“If you’re going to ask Republicans who’s the best messenger on our conference, I think I’m one of the best there,” Donalds said. “As a conservative who has worked on policy at the state level, now here, I think I have the necessary tools to help our conference in the next evolution after the November elections.”

Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), another first-term member who was reported to be interested in the conference chair position if Stefanik did not run again, threw her support behind Stefanik.

“@RepStefanik has done an incredible job as our Conference chair and I’m proud to be on her team and support her. We will continue to work together to take back the House in November and get our country back on the right track,” Hinson said in a tweet responding to news that Stefanik plans to run again.

So did Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, who had also been reported as a potential pick for chair if Stefanik did not run.

“Serving as Vice Chairman of House Republicans alongside Chairwoman Stefanik has been one of the great highlights of my time in Congress. I look forward to continuing our work together to retake the House majority this fall by promoting the Republican agenda, and I fully support her bid to serve another term as Conference Chair,” Johnson said in a statement.

Stefanik first took over the position, tasked with leading the House Republican message, in May 2021 after the conference ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from the position over her vocal criticism of former President Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Stefanik, in contrast, has been a staunch defender and ally of Trump and first gained prominence as part of Trump’s defense team during his first impeachment in 2020. She has proudly adopted the label of “ultra-MAGA” as Democrats and President Biden argue that “MAGA Republicans” are a threat to democracy.

After the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month, she called the episode a “dark day in American history” and accused the Biden administration of “weaponizing this department against their political opponents.”

If Republicans win back the House and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) becomes Speaker and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) moves up to the position of majority leader, that leaves open the No. 3 position of House majority whip.

Stefanik’s high profile and status as the No. 3 House Republican led to speculation about whether she would climb up the leadership ladder, but she would have joined a crowded field of contenders for the whip position.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has been careful not to formally launch a bid yet.

“There’s nothing to run for until you win. I’m focusing on Nov. 8,” he told The Hill in an interview last week when asked about the whip race.

Reps. Drew Ferguson, currently the chief deputy whip, is also in the mix as a potential contender for the position, and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), current chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, is also weighing a run for whip.

One senior Republican source argued that the reaction to Stefanik’s announcement showed her strength as a politician.

“It took Stefanik less than one hour to lock down the votes of the entire leadership team and 2/3 of the entire conference. And she hasn’t even hit the floor yet,” the source said.

Spokespeople for McCarthy and Emmer confirmed that they will each support Stefanik for the position, while one for Scalise did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

McCarthy brushed off the stakes of a match-up between Stefanik and Donalds.

“I don’t think it’ll be a race,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday evening. “Elise has done an excellent job and will continue to be Conference Chair.”

At the time of her election in March 2021, Stefanik garnered criticism from some in the hard-line House Freedom Caucus for not having a conservative enough voting record. But a year into her tenure, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the caucus’s former chairman, said she has been a “step up” from Cheney.

Stefanik has aimed to show influence in other House GOP races.

She endorsed controversial businessman Carl Paladino in the race to represent New York’s 23rd District when Rep. Chris Jacobs (R) abruptly ended his reelection bid over backlash to his support for an assault weapons ban.

Paladino, who has apologized for once inadvertently emailing racist remarks about former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama to a local outlet, lost that primary race last month to New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy.

And in the Republican primary for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, she endorsed her 25-year-old former aide Karoline Leavitt while McCarthy and Scalise backed Matt Mowers, a former Trump appointee in the State Department.

Updated 7:47 p.m.

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