Labrador’s ambition fueled by losing leadership contest

The sophomore Idaho congressman sees his growing national profile as an advantage.

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comJune 21, 2014 

labrador, politics, town hall meeting, meridian, republican

U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador speaks in Meridian City Hall in 2013.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

Rep. Raul Labrador may run for House GOP leadership again in November and said he’ll build on his reputation as an informal leader among conservative reformers.

“I’m not going to wait anymore,” Labrador told reporters at a Friday news conference in his Capitol Hill office, a day after he lost his long-shot bid to become House majority leader.

“Now, I’m not making an announcement that I’m running for anything, but if I think there’s a vacuum and it needs to be filled I’m not going to be asking anybody else to fill that vacuum. I think it’s my responsibility to do that.”

Of his increased notoriety, Labrador said: “You’ve got to use everything to your advantage.”

Last week, Labrador tried to convince senior colleagues to challenge GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy of California to fill a vacancy left by the primary defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

When none agreed to run, Labrador announced his bid six days before the vote. By then, McCarthy said he’d locked in the votes.

McCarthy won the secret-ballot vote among 233 House Republicans. Labrador said he doesn’t know the count, but said he had a “broad spectrum” of support.

“You would be surprised at the number of senior members who told me that I was doing the right thing,” he said.

Labrador said he won’t challenge House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio when the GOP elects leaders for the next Congress after the November election. But he didn’t rule out a contest for other leadership posts.

“I don’t know, I need to think about it — reassess with my wife and my family,” Labrador said.

Meanwhile, Labrador said he’ll work to improve his chances.

“My goal is to sit down with each member of the (Republican) Conference and see what they thought about the race, what they think about the Conference and how we can move ahead,” he said.

Labrador said he considered the criticism that he wasn’t prepared “one of the silliest arguments out there.”

“So I haven’t been kissing up to people,” he said. “Here in Washington it’s a bad thing that you haven’t been scheming for four years to become a member of leadership.”

Asked whether he plans “on staying in Washington for a while,” Labrador replied, “We’ll see. Right now I’m running for re-election.”

Labrador credited his wife, Rebecca, for urging him to oppose McCarthy.

“She has a passion for this country, as well,” he said. “She thinks that I have an important voice. That’s all I care about — and if I can do it at the national level, that’s where I think I should be doing it. Or, if I need to do it at the state level, I think I can do it there as well.”

Labrador said his exposure in the national media, particularly conservative talk radio, was thrilling. “This has been truly one of the funnest experiences that I’ve had,” he said.

Dan Popkey: 377-6438

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