Rep. Forbes to run for Armed Services gavel

Rep. Randy ForbesJames (Randy) Randy ForbesToo much ‘can do,’ not enough candor Trump makes little headway filling out Pentagon jobs Why there's only one choice for Trump's Navy secretary MORE (R-Va.) will run for the chairmanship of the powerful House Armed Services Committee after the elections.

A spokesman for Forbes confirmed that after months of flirting with a run, the congressman has decided to challenge Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) for the top spot on the panel.

Forbes last month told The Hill that he was eyeing a bid because he believed the GOP was moving in the wrong direction on national security issues.

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“When we talk about national defense and where we are you have too many people just kind of nodding, that you know, this is just where we are,” Forbes said. “We have to make a fundamental decision in our party, whether we will just be the manager of a decline toward mediocrity or whether we will have the leaders chart a new course.”

His decision sets up a contest to lead Congress's largest panel, which is responsible for crafting the House's version of the annual authorization bill for the Defense Department.

The committee also provides oversight of the military, a role that is sure to grow as the Obama administration leads an international coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Forbes, who already heads up the committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces subpanel, is known across Capitol Hill for his attention to naval issues.

His district is part of the larger “Hampton Roads” area, which includes Newport News, the home of Huntington Ingalls Industries. The company builds a majority of U.S. submarines and aircraft carriers.

The fourth-ranking Republican on the full panel, he faces an steep climb in the race against Thornberry, who has served as the panel’s No. 2 for the last four years.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the current Armed Services chairman, is set to retire next year and has implicitly endorsed Thornberry, tasking him with leading an effort to revamp the Pentagon’s acquisition policies, which should bear fruit early next year.

Thornberry has also begun to raise his profile ahead of a gavel handoff, clashing with the administration over its strategy for battling ISIS.

A spokeswoman for Thornberry did not respond to a request for comment.

Forbes has said that running is not about defeating another member of the Armed Services panel.

"I don't view this as a race to see who sits in a particular chair or ... who holds the gavel," he said.

Forbes also lags behind Thornberry in party outreach.

Thornberry has given nearly $243,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, federal records show, contributions that will no doubt be noticed by the House Republican Steering Committee when it meets after next week's midterms to determine chairmanships.

“You want to do your part to help the election count out the right way, from our standpoint,” Thornberry told The Hill in an interview last month, adding that “generally, if you do a good job, then that gets rewarded or recognized.”

Forbes has only given around $63,000 to the NRCC. However, his political action committees have just over $650,000 cash on hand, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Virginia lawmaker has had a rocky relationship with GOP's campaign arm after Politico reported late last year that he was urging colleagues to withhold donations from gay candidates.

Months later, Forbes was still fuming over the charges made in the article.

"I think if you really trace back the source of that, that was probably somebody who wanted to derail what I was doing," he told The Hill.