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Roy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position

Conservative Rep. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyRoy introduces bill blocking Chinese Communist Party members from buying US land Massie, Greene trash mask violation warnings from House sergeant at arms House rejects GOP effort to roll back chamber's mask mandate MORE (Texas) will launch a last-minute, long shot bid for House Republican Conference chair, sources said, challenging Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikRecovering America through the lens of wildlife Former Trump aide eyeing New Hampshire congressional bid GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message MORE (N.Y.), who has the endorsement of former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE and top House GOP leaders.

Stefanik had been running unopposed for the No. 3 leadership post that became vacant when House Republicans on Wednesday voted to remove Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn Cheney House Democrats to Schumer: Vote again on Jan. 6 probe Cheney compares Trump claims to Chinese Communist Party: 'It's very dangerous' Stefanik pregnant with her first child MORE (Wyo.) from the job for repeatedly calling out Trump’s falsehoods that the 2020 election was stolen.

Both Stefanik and Roy are expected to address rank-and-file Republicans during a candidate forum later Thursday, with a closed-door vote set for Friday morning. A spokesman later confirmed that Roy is running for GOP Conference chair, a role which oversees messaging for House Republicans.

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Roy, a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, made waves earlier this week when he sent a memo to colleagues raising concerns that Stefanik was too liberal to represent the 212-member conference and that GOP leaders were rushing to “coronate” her.

Stefanik previously was a leader of a group of moderate Republicans before becoming one of Trump’s most vocal defenders on Capitol Hill. 

Roy specifically pointed to Stefanik's past votes against the 2017 tax cut law and in support of Democratic bills to end Trump's emergency declaration to fund a border wall, keep the U.S. in the Paris climate pact and ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We must avoid putting in charge Republicans who campaign as Republicans but then vote for and advance the Democrats’ agenda once sworn in – that is, that we do not make the same mistakes we did in 2017," Roy wrote in the memo.

"Therefore, with all due respect to my friend, Elise Stefanik,” he added, “let us contemplate the message Republican leadership is about to send by rushing to coronate a spokesperson whose voting record embodies much of what led to the 2018 ass-kicking we received by Democrats.”

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Outside conservative groups like Club for Growth and FreedomWorks also have complained about Stefanik’s voting record. Both groups endorsed Roy on Thursday. 

Roy had spent the better part of the week trying to recruit a conservative colleague to challenge Stefanik. But hours before Thursday’s candidate forum, Roy decided he had to jump in himself.

“I don’t believe there should be a coronation,” Roy told reporters a day earlier. If House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement Omar: I wasn't equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries Schumer bemoans number of Republicans who believe Trump will be reinstated: 'A glaring warning' MORE (R-Calif.) “wants us to be united, then he should take the time to do this the right way. … I do not believe she should run unopposed.” 

But after Cheney’s removal highlighted deep GOP divisions this week, the last thing McCarthy wants is a long drawn-out fight between moderates and conservatives over who should replace her. McCarthy has endorsed Stefanik, as have Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseWisconsin state lawmaker compares museum mask policy to Nazi Party Overnight Health Care: Public option plan left out of Biden budget proposal | House Republicans demand congressional probe into COVID-19 origin | Half the total US population have received at least one vaccine dose House Republicans demand congressional probe into COVID-19 origin MORE (R-La.) and Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHouse Judiciary releases McGahn testimony on Trump Democrats control the language of politics and culture — but for how long? Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies MORE (R-Ohio), another top Trump ally who was the founding chairman of the Freedom Caucus.

Moments after news broke that Roy was running, Trump himself sent out a statement mocking Roy.

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"Can’t imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy — he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district. I support Elise, by far, over Chip!"

Given Stefanik’s aggressive weeklong campaign to lock down support, from Trump and around the conference, Republicans are expecting a lopsided vote Friday. And several lawmakers said they planned to skip Thursday's candidate forum, saying Stefanik already had the job wrapped up.

“The cake is baked,” said GOP Rep. Troy Nehls, who serves with Roy in the Texas delegation. 

Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate path uncertain after House approves Jan. 6 panel Capitol Police Board signals resistance to reform McCarthy says that he will not support bipartisan deal for Jan. 6 commission MORE (R-Ill.) said he wouldn’t attend either: "If anybody doesn't know who they're voting for by now, [they should] go to the candidate forum."

"I think she's already gotten enough commitments. And if two-thirds of 'em stick, she'll be fine,” said Rep. Tim BurchettTimothy (Tim) Floyd BurchettRoy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program MORE (R-Tenn.). It’s "too little, too late" for Chip Roy. 

Mike Lillis and Cristina Marcos contributed.

Updated at 6:42 p.m.