Can John Shadegg Be Elected House Majority Leader?

As has likely been apparent for quite some time, my preference in the race for House Majority Leader (in which, as Majority Whip Roy Blunt would hasten to point out, I don’t have a vote) would be, in order, John Shadegg, John Boehner, a random Republican Member, and Roy Blunt. Blunt is the candidate with the most ties to the corrupt Abramoff-DeLay machine and represents an arrogant bet that the Republicans do not need to change course. Shadegg is the other extreme, a virtual unknown who would signal a clean break and the idea that the GOP “gets it.”

Shadegg, however, entered the race late and seemed to have no chance. While he’s gotten endorsements from bloggers ranging from Glenn Reynolds to N.Z. Bear to Mike Krempasky and the Red State Gang and conservative bastions including Human Events and National Review, he seemed to have no shot at winning. Blunt and Boehner together claimed roughly 150 percent of the Caucus as supporters.

Suddenly, though, something is changing.

WSJ’s Brody Mullins gives the latest example of Members pledging their support for one candidate and then voting for another:

As three Republicans candidates vie to replace Rep. Tom DeLay as House Majority Whip in an election Thursday, Democrats showed that anything can happen in a closed-ballot election in Washington.

Democrat Rep. John Larson of Connecticut won a startling election to become the fourth-ranking member of the House Democrats’ leadership team.

Larson had just 18 publicly announced supporters heading into the election. Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York had 72 public supporters while Rep. Jan Schakowsky had 56. In the first round of voting, Mr. Larson received 60 votes; Crowley, 79; and Ms. Schakowsky, 56. Since no candidate won a majority of the votes, the top two vote recipients — Mr. Larson and Mr. Crowley — moved on to a second ballot. There, most of Ms. Schakowsky’s supporters backed Mr. Larson — and he won, 116-87.

On Thursday, House Republicans will chose among Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio and Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona to serve as House majority leader. Blunt, who now serves as interim majority leader, is considered the frontrunner with 94 public supporters. Boehner has just 55 public backers, and Shadegg just a few dozen. If Mr. Blunt doesn’t win a majority — 117 votes — on the first ballot, he will face either Boehner or Shadegg on the second ballot.

(Via InstaPundit, who notes it is “Very interesting.” Indeed.)

Apparently, Blunt himself knows this.

“This is a secret ballot. Things happen. . .If it turns out I am not the majority leader, I will still be the whip.”

— Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), quoted by CQ’s Alan K. Ota (“Signs of Unrest Grow on Eve of Leadership Vote,” CQ, February 1, 2006)

Above quote via email from a Boehner staffer. The irony is twofold. First, it demonstrates the arrogance of Blunt’s position. Second, losing a race while thinking one has the votes sewn up is prima facie evidence that one is not a very good Whip.

Now, here’s the kicker: Senator John McCain has endorsed Shadegg.

Looking to give his fellow Arizonan an eleventh-hour boost before House Republicans retreat today behind doors to select a new majority leader, Sen. John McCain announced Wednesday that Rep. John Shadegg would be his choice. “I’m here in support of John Shadegg, not because I’m a member of the United States Senate,” said Republican McCain, appearing with Shadegg at a Capitol news conference.

McCain acknowledged, “I think you can make an argument it’s none of my business that a senator would come over and try and interfere or have influence over an election in the House.” But McCain said he believed it was appropriate to make his support of Shadegg known to House Republicans, given that any reforms in how Congress operates would have to be enacted by both the House and the Senate to become law.

“And I know that John Shadegg, who I have had the honor of knowing for more than 25 years and have a close working relationship with, is committed to reform,” McCain said. The senator said Shadegg is dedicated, for instance, to ending the practice of lawmakers’ slipping their often costly pet projects into legislation, or so-called earmarking.

Now, granted, McCain does not have a vote in this one, either. But he would not go out on a limb and endorse a surefire losing candidate on the day before the election.

Still, Shadegg continued Wednesday to sit in third place in the number of publicly declared supporters among the House GOP’s 232 members. Blunt on Wednesday claimed 97 public backers and Boehner 51. Shadegg was not publicly releasing a list, although at least 16 House GOP members are known to be backing him.

But Shadegg, who entered the race late, and others emphasized that the vote, which is to begin shortly after 10 a.m. Arizona time, is by secret ballot. So, early declarations of support can be unreliable. “A lot of interesting things happen on secret ballots,” said McCain, recalling that the late Morris Udall once famously quipped after he ran for majority leader, “I’d like to thank the 120 guys that committed to me and the 60 that voted for me.”

I had been looking for that quote for the last couple of weeks, mistakenly believing it was uttered by Teddy Kennedy when he lost to Robert Byrd in the Whip race in 1971. But it’s absolutely accurate.

Update: Jon Henke weighs in with “How Republicans Can Get Their Groove Back.”

WaPo fronts a piece by Jonathan Weisman, “Lobbying Changes Divide House GOP,” highlighting why change is needed.

Just two weeks after House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) pledged to pass far-reaching changes to the rules of lobbying on Capitol Hill, House Republican members pushed back hard against those proposals yesterday, charging that their leaders are overreacting to a growing corruption scandal. In a tense, 3 1/2 -hour closed-door session, many Republicans challenged virtually every element of the leadership’s proposal, from a blanket ban on privately funded travel to stricter limits on gifts to an end to gym privileges for lawmakers-turned-lobbyists. Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), a veteran conservative who is seeking a top leadership post, scoffed that Congress knows how to do just two things well — nothing and overreact, according to witnesses.

GOP leaders did withstand a motion to force every leader but Hastert to stand for reelection today. Yet the motion was backed by 85 of the roughly 200 Republicans at the meeting, after leaders predicted that it would attract little support. “I always figure you have to look in the mirror before you go out in the morning. All we were doing was asking us to look in the mirror,” Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the motion, said after the vote. “The shadow of [Jack] Abramoff is not a mere distraction but a serious problem to address.”

Quite so. Roy Blunt termed it mere “optics” in his conference call with bloggers. He’s wrong.

Update 2: The answer to the titular question would appear to be No.

Related posts in extended entry.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    James you nail every nail on every head in this post exect one line…

    >Now, granted, McCain does not have a vote in this one, either. But he would not go out on a limb and endorse a surefire losing candidate on the day before the election.

    Sure he would- If he thought it would get him ink. What state is Shadegg from again?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Fair enough. But burning one’s bridges with the future Majority Leader when contemplating a run for president would not be prudent.

  3. legion says:

    So, lying to their constituents is part of the job, but when Congresscritters start lying to _each other_, then it’s news!

    Really, I’m crying on the inside.

  4. McGehee says:

    Really, IÂ’m crying on the inside.

    Try laughing, it’s what I do. Doesn’t help any better, but it doesn’t hurt either.

  5. Ben There says:

    I wrote my representative backing Shadegg for the post and recieved a reply agreeing with my selection. My man is a straight shooter and he just as well may be your rep.

    Michael M. Bates had a very informative article on term limits and the need for money and more money.

    Is it an initiative whose time has come? I beleive so and it may be the only way to get rid of Kennedy.

  6. G A PHILLIPS says: