In news that will surprise no one, Congressman Kevin McCarthy was elected to take the place of outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost his bid for reelection against college professor David Brat. Cantor’s loss shocked pundits and the political establishment.
McCarthy, who was already in a leadership position as majority whip, faced off against Tea Party Congressman Raul Labrador. Labrador, while having great support from the conservative base, could not marshal enough votes (117) to overtake McCarthy. McCarthy was seen as the favorite due to his extensive connections to other members and his friendliness towards leadership. When Cantor stepped down, he endorsed McCarthy outright. McCarthy is seen as an established insider, which has aroused the ire of many in the Tea Party, who were hoping to move leadership to the right.
According to Robert Costa of the Washington Post, Labrador took the defeat graciously and called for an informal vote so that Republicans could unanimously support McCarthy. However, as Jake Sherman notes, it is important to remember that there was plenty of division.
In the race for majority whip the drama was intense, with accusations of poor vote counting flying between the two camps. Many suspected that Congressman Steve Scalise, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, would go to a second ballot with the more moderate Congressman Peter Roskam of Illinois, thanks to the third candidate, Tea Partier Marlin Stutzman. However, surprisingly, that was not the case. Scalise won on his first ballot. He’s seen as a southern conservative, but also has cozy ties to the leadership.