Elise Stefanik and Chip Roy pitched their House GOP colleagues on their cases to be the conference’s next No. 3 leader on Thursday night, promising to put aside their personal views in order to execute messaging on behalf of the party less than 48 hours after Liz Cheney’s tumultuous eviction.
Multiple Republicans present at the event, billed as a candidate forum, described the back-and-forth between New York and Texas Republicans as friendly and formal. Roy argued that he was the more conservative choice, while Stefanik emphasized her efforts to elect Republican women and her fundraising skills.
Lawmakers who attended estimated the attendance at around 60, implying that many House Republicans have already decided how they will vote on the conference chairship following Cheney’s ouster on Wednesday (R-Wyo.). Roy, a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, announced his candidacy for leadership shortly before the forum after hinting at it earlier this week.
He has argued that Stefanik should not be the House Republicans’ No. 3 leader because of her moderate record, and he has also criticized the party’s haste in replacing Cheney. However, as Roy exited the forum, he declined to directly answer whether he intended to withdraw from the race. “We are going to have a vote tomorrow in the Republican conference,” was all Roy replied.
When asked if he is concerned about former President Donald Trump’s Thursday statement criticizing him and confirming his support for Stefanik, Roy compared a group of reporters to “vultures” and said, “This is all D.C. swamp business.”
Trump demanded that Roy face a primary challenger shortly before the candidates spoke. Last week, Stefanik received the former president’s approval to replace Cheney. Stefanik told reporters after the meeting that it had been a “great discussion,” that he had received support from all corners of the GOP conference, and that “we are in a strong position.” She also touted Trump’s endorsement, claiming that “voters look to his support.”
Nonetheless, several Republicans have complained that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has put his finger on the scale for Stefanik, claiming that he has put his finger on the scale for Stefanik.
According to lawmakers in the room, Stefanik and Roy were pressed during the forum on how they would approach the job of House GOP messaging chief and whether they could put aside their personal views to speak for the entire conference. McCarthy scheduled a forum for candidates for Cheney’s replacement on Thursday evening after Cheney was ousted on Wednesday, and set the election for Friday morning.
Despite the smattering of objections, there is no indication that McCarthy intends to postpone the election. Nonetheless, there are some rumblings on the far right about attempting to force some procedural motions during Friday’s conference meeting as a form of protest.
Stefanik, the moderate turned Trump supporter, is widely regarded as the frontrunner in the race and has worked quickly to assemble a broad coalition of support from across the conference. On Jan. 6, she voted against certifying the election in one of two states where electoral votes were challenged by scores of pro-Trump Republicans. “He hasn’t done a great job, and he’ll probably win the primary in his own district,” Trump said. “By far, I support Elise over Chip!”
Roy, a former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) with a reputation for causing procedural havoc, will almost certainly position himself as a conservative alternative to Stefanik. According to sources, fellow Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) intends to formally nominate him.
One of the members planning to nominate the New Yorker is freshman Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), whom Stefanik helped elect through her PAC supporting GOP women.