By Molly K. Hooper - 02/27/14 06:00 AM EST
The race is on to replace Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
At least three Republican lawmakers are interested in Issa’s Oversight and Government Reform gavel: Reps. John Mica (Fla.), Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Michael Turner (Ohio).
Chaffetz, the most junior of the trio, is actively pursuing the coveted perch.
A senior member of the Oversight Committee, Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.), said the outspoken Utah lawmaker has visited him to win his support.
“The only one that’s been to see me thus far is Chaffetz, so he’s out working it,” Duncan revealed to The Hill. Duncan, who ranks behind Mica and Turner, is not seeking the chairmanship.
Chaffetz, a Tea Party favorite who came to Congress by ousting a GOP incumbent, has made no secret of his desire to wield the gavel of the committee charged with keeping a close eye on the White House.
“I made it no mystery that I would be interested in being the next chairman of the Oversight Committee. I hope that my candor and plain speaking on this issue will pay off in the end,” the Utah lawmaker said in an interview with The Hill.
Chaffetz, 46, has played a leading role in the investigation of the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. He is also a regular on cable news networks, including Fox, where he aggressively lambastes the Obama administration.
He noted his efforts to be a “team player,” which have included traveling around the country to raise money for colleagues. Last week, Chaffetz said he campaigned for Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and former Rep. Frank Guinta in New Hampshire.
Still, Chaffetz — who is serving his third term and is seen as a potential successor to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) — has to defeat more senior colleagues to take the gavel.
Mica, a former chairman of the Transportation Committee, sought to downplay any friction.
“There’s no race,” Mica said in an interview with The Hill. “First you have to get reelected, then you have to see what the [make-up of] leadership is, the [Republican] Steering Committee, and all of that. So it’s a long ways away.”
A well-placed senior GOP lawmaker believes leadership isn’t even considering Mica’s bid, however.
“Mica’s not going to get anything,” a source in the Speaker’s inner circle told The Hill.
A separate high-ranking GOP source said the race is between Chaffetz and Turner, explaining that leaders “are tired” of Mica.
Mica, 71, caused problems for the party when he opted to run against former GOP Rep. Sandy Adams in a newly redrawn district in 2012. Some GOP officials wanted Mica to run in an adjacent district that included more of his original district.
Adams, who was backed by some Tea Party figures in the GOP primary, ripped Mica’s record on earmarks during the campaign. But Mica, who had a huge campaign war chest advantage, easily defeated her.
Other sources close to Republican leaders agree that the race will come down to Chaffetz and Turner.
Turner, 54, is interested in replacing retiring Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), but that slot is likely to go to Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).
The six-term Ohio lawmaker tossed his hat in the running shortly after Chaffetz spoke to leadership about his intention to seek the top spot, a source familiar with the situation said.
Though he doesn’t have the “media savvy” personality of Chaffetz, a senior GOP lawmaker told The Hill, “Turner’s been a good loyal soldier, a serious-minded guy.”
And as part of the Buckeye State delegation, Speaker John Boehner could weigh in favor of his fellow Ohioan. There has been speculation this is Boehner’s last Congress, but he has denied those rumors.
Turner did not comment for this article.
There is a chance that Issa could seek a waiver to remain in his post during the 114th Congress. Such requests are rarely granted by House GOP leaders, however.