By Matt Fuller
Posted at 8:29 p.m. on June 12
Updated 9:49 p.m. | Rules Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas has dropped out of the race to replace Eric Cantor as majority leader, helping clear a path for Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California to ascend to the No. 2 post in the House.
Sessions stressed party unity in a statement to CQ Roll Call.
“After thoughtful consideration and discussion with my colleagues, I have made the decision to not continue my run for House Majority Leader. Today, it became obvious to me that the measures necessary to run a successful campaign would have created unnecessary and painful division within our party. At this critical time, we must remain unified as a Republican Conference. As always, I stand ready and willing to work with our team to advance the conservative agenda that the American people demand and deserve.”
McCarthy was heavily favored to beat Sessions in the race, quickly lining up support while the Texas delegation wrangled over whether to back Sessions or Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling.
Hensarling announced Thursday morning that he wouldn’t be running for the position.
A group of conservative lawmakers told CQ Roll Call Thursday they still wanted an alternative candidate to McCarthy — and Sessions for that matter — and were expecting to announce one soon.
When CQ Roll Call raised the possibility of Raúl R. Labrador, one lawmaker in the group called it “an astute guess.”
A source familiar with Labrador’s thinking said a lot of members were encouraging the Idaho Republican to run for the position.
But any bids at this point would be very long shots at best — and the focus will now turn to the wide open races down ballot — especially for McCarthy’s whip job.
Sessions’ campaign started just hours after Cantor’s stunning primary loss Tuesday to Dave Brat.
Sessions, who has a deep contact list from his two stints as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was texting members past 2 a.m., asking for their early support.
By Wednesday, he was the first candidate officially in the race to be majority leader, and he was already looking to cast himself as the conservative alternative to McCarthy, who had not announced his candidacy for Majority Leader but was all-but-certain to jump in the race as soon as Cantor announced his resignation.
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