Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will have a challenger in his bid for House majority leader after all.
Conservative second-term Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) announced on Friday he would challenge McCarthy for the post to replace the defeated Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
In his statement, Labrador said it was clear from Cantor’s stunning primary loss that “Americans are looking for a change in the status quo.”
"I want a House leadership team that reflects the best of our conference,” Labrador said. “A leadership team that can bring the Republican conference together. A leadership team that can help unite and grow our party. Americans don't believe their leaders in Washington are listening and now is the time to change that.”
McCarthy, currently the majority whip, has already amassed enough support necessary to the win the election to be held on Thursday, his allies have said. But Labrador’s candidacy will allow conservatives who have chafed at the current leadership team an alternate choice.
Labrador’s move comes after two prominent Texans, Reps. Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling, decided against pursuing bids to challenge McCarthy.
Labrador is a frequent critic of leadership who refused to vote for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in January 2013.
But even he may not be conservative enough for some members. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) wrote on Twitter on Friday that Labrador was unacceptable because of his “pro-amnesty” stance on immigration.
Labrador worked for months on a bipartisan group that drafted legislation that included a path to legal status for illegal immigrants, although he has said Republicans shouldn’t pass broad legislation and that he opposes “amnesty.”
He made no mention of immigration reform in his announcement Friday.
Labrador received support for his late-breaking bid Friday from a fellow conservative stalwart. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.).
In his endorsement, Amash said he could think of “no one more qualified to be our next leader” than Labrador. He also took aim at GOP leadership, arguing that Cantor’s stunning loss should be a lesson in caution for anyone eager to simply move McCarthy up the ladder.
“Washington Republicans can bury what happened last Tuesday with piles of excuses. But if they view Tuesday as an anomaly, they do so at their own peril,” he said. “We can’t respond to a stunning loss by giving a pat on the back and promotion to the same team. It’s time for someone new, someone conservative.”
Amash has repeatedly split with party leaders on a host of legislative issues, and is currently facing a primary challenger who has been boosted by business groups seeking to oust him.