Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told The Hill on Wednesday that she will make a bid to join Senate Republican leadership starting in 2023. 

Capito, who currently serves as an adviser to Senate GOP leadership, said that she will run to be vice chair of the Senate Republican Conference. 

“I will be seeking to join the elected leadership team. … I just think I have a good sense of American families and voices of West Virginians and also what the conference is thinking,” Capito told The Hill. 

Capito, 68, is an ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and has held her current position as a counselor to leadership since 2015. The position, while unelected, gives her a seat at Monday night leadership meetings. 

But going for the No. 5 spot would require her to be elected by the Senate Republican Conference when it holds leadership elections for the 118th Congress later this year. Senate leadership elections aren’t expected to take place until after the November midterm elections, with the new leadership team taking over at the start of the new Congress in January. 

Capito said that she viewed the vice chair spot largely as a “communications position,” and the role comes with increased visibility including appearing with McConnell and other members of GOP leadership at a weekly press conference. It would also come as the party has been locked in a rolling, and sometimes public, discussion about its direction in the wake of the 2020 elections, when they lost control of the White House and the Senate. 

“Working with the conference that sometimes has diverse views to try to pull it together to where we share the common goals and how we’re going to get there and then working with obviously the leader and others to put forward good policy directives, good political objectives and then communicating that not just to the members but to the country at large,” Capito said about how she would approach the role.

Capito said that she had already spoken with “more than a few” colleagues about her decision to make a run for the leadership spot. The Hill first reported last week that Capito was mulling a bid, and she noted that other senators approached her after that.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said that he had spoken with Capito to encourage her to run. 

“She’s a great leader. … Steady hand. I like the way that she legislates. I fully support her,” Tillis said. 

The Senate GOP leadership team is set to go through changes after this year. 

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) holds the No. 4 spot as Republican Policy Committee chairman. But he announced last year that he was going to retire, creating a vacancy. 

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) holds the No. 5 spot as vice chair of the conference but is expected to go for the No. 4 position, creating the vacancy for her current role. 

Ernst, in an interview with The Hill, praised Capito as an “extraordinary communicator” and a “worker” and said that she would be supporting her for the vice chair position. 

“I love it,” Ernst said. “I am very excited about her running. I think that she will do just a fantastic job. She has my full support.” 

Ernst won the No. 5 spot in 2018, defeating Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.). Her win made her the first female member of elected leadership since 2010 and the only female member of elected leadership.  

No other Republican, so far, has said that they will run for the No. 5 position, and Ernst noted that she hadn’t heard of anyone else running. Fischer also told The Hill that she would not make a second bid for the position, saying, “I think … a lot of times you pick a policy path.” 

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is also expected to step down from his position as National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman, a position he was elected to for the 2022 campaign cycle as Republicans aim to take back the majority.

Scott previously told The Hill that he hadn’t yet thought about whether he wanted to stay in GOP leadership. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who term-limited out as the Senate Republican whip, the No. 2 position, and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who previously served as NRSC chair, both hold unelected positions as advisers to McConnell. 

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) is expected to run to succeed Scott as NRSC chairman, while McConnell, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the GOP whip, and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the GOP conference chairman, are each expected to keep their spots as the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 Republican senators, respectively.

Thune noted that he typically wouldn’t endorse since he has his own leadership race but praised Capito as “smart” and “well-connected” within the conference. 

“I think she would be great,” he said. 

Capito joined the Senate in 2015, flipping the seat into GOP hands after longtime Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) retired. She had previously served in the House since 2001. 

She’s earned bipartisan praise for her willingness to dive into policy and being more of a workhorse. Though she was ultimately unable to reach a deal with the Biden administration on an infrastructure deal last year, her negotiations were blessed by McConnell and backed by several other members of the caucus. 

Capito initially indicated last year, in an interview with Politico, that she didn’t intend to join leadership. But she pointed to Blunt’s retirement as well as her work on infrastructure as helping her realize how her policy knowledge could fit into the leadership team.

“I am very interested in policy, and that’s where my interest is. But where I think I’ve made that connection is that on a leadership team you need different policy … experts,” Capito said, pointing to her work on appropriations and environmental and rural issues, as well as putting a second woman on the six-person elected GOP leadership team. 

“We need to have those voices in our elected leadership,” Capito said. “And that’s how I have sort of come to the point of saying that my policy … background really does lend itself well to being on a leadership team.”  

Tags Deb Fischer GOP leadership Jay Rockefeller John Barrasso John Cornyn John Thune Joni Ernst Mitch McConnell Rick Scott Roger Wicker Roy Blunt Shelley Moore Capito Steve Daines Thom Tillis West Virginia

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