Hensarling opts out of GOP race

Anne Wernikoff

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) will not run to replace House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

The conservative favorite said in a statement Thursday he was not going to challenge Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) for the No. 2 spot in House GOP leadership.

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“Although I am humbled by the calls, emails, and conversations from my colleagues encouraging me to return to leadership for the remainder of the 113th Congress, I will not be a candidate for Majority Leader next week,” he said. “After prayerful reflection, I have come to the conclusion that this is not the right office at the right time for me and my family.”

The chairman of the powerful banking panel is a long-time favorite of conservatives, and many wanted Hensarling to take on a larger role in the party to represent their interests after the stunning primary loss from Cantor. The six-term lawmaker previously was a member of GOP leadership in a reduced capacity, serving as head of the House Republican Conference from 2011-2013.

Hensarling has kept a low profile amid the leadership shakeup. He put out a statement Wednesday morning saying many had told him to pursue a leadership spot, but just that he was “prayerfully considering the best way I can serve.”

As Republicans filed in to a closed-door meeting that evening, Hensarling made a quiet entrance, avoiding reporters at the same time Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) was making his case for majority leader to the cameras.

House Republicans are set to vote on a new leadership team on June 19. Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) are competing to replace McCarthy as majority whip.

Hensarling’s decision not to run leaves a vacuum in the leadership race and will likely set off a scramble among conservatives to find an alternative.

Pundits on the right are lining up against McCarthy, who is now the majority whip, arguing it’s time for House Republicans to chart a new course.

"McCarthy is squishy on a host of issues, bad on immigration, and not a friend of conservatives," conservative Erick Erickson wrote on his website Thursday. "House Republicans looked on the biggest electoral surprise of the year and are giving it the middle finger.”
 
— This story was updated at 10:54 a.m.