Labrador: Loss a 'building block' for future

Greg Nash

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) sees his failed bid to become the House majority leader as anything but a failure.

Speaking with reporters in his office Friday, the outspoken conservative made clear that his late attempt to challenge Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was just the beginning of his effort to take on an outsized role in Washington, and he wouldn't rule out making a leadership bid again. 

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“This is a building block for something come,” he said. “I can’t tell you what that something to come is.”

While some painted Labrador’s bid to replace Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in the No. 2 GOP spot as a long shot doomed from the start, a protest campaign of sorts, Labrador said he received a much different message from lawmakers.

“Very few people looked at me and said, ‘Are you crazy? What are you doing?’” he said. “They just either thought I got in too late or I should wait a couple of years. But almost everyone said this is something you should try at some time.”

Labrador did not rule out mounting a fresh challenge against McCarthy after the November elections, when House Republicans have to again select their leadership team. But he also did not say a sequel was guaranteed. Rather, Labrador indicated he wanted to take on a large role in the House Republican conference, going beyond a conservative lawmaker best known for being a thorn in leaders’ sides.

“You can be a leader without being in leadership,” he said. “Leadership is not about a title. I could actually become a leader in the House, someone that people come to.”

But if Labrador does want to take another run at a leadership spot, he made clear he is ready to do so. And he won’t be waiting for those like Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a longtime favorite of conservatives for a leadership post who avoided the July race, to make up their mind either.

“I’m not going to wait anymore,” he said. “If I think that there’s a vacuum and it needs to be filled, I’m not going to be asking anyone else to fill that vacuum.”

As part of that effort, Labrador said he is going to spend the upcoming months making it his mission to meet and talk with every other House Republican. In the process of running for majority leader, Labrador said he met members he rarely interacted with, and both sides came away with a better understanding of the other.

“One guy started telling everybody, ‘This is not the guy that we think he is,’” he said, without identifying the lawmaker. “He just starting calling [other lawmakers] to say that you really need to listen to Raul.”

Some lawmakers believe the new team just selected will be the team to round out President Obama’s term. But Labrador said there is an undercurrent of widespread dissatisfaction among GOP lawmakers that could suggest another overhaul after the election.

“More than half of the conference wants a change,” he said. “If leadership listens…there might not be any change in leadership.

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