Idaho’s Raul Labrador Launches Seemingly Quixotic Bid For House Majority Leader

Elephants Fighting

With Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions both bowing out of a race against House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy to succeed Eric Cantor as House Majority leader, the outcome of the race seems to be quite predictable. Nonetheless, McCarthy will face opposition next Thursday in the form of second term Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador:

Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador will run for House majority leader next week, giving the hard right corner of the conference their candidate.

Labrador, who was elected in 2010, is a late entrant into a race that’s four days old – and the election is less than a week away. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has locked up a huge well of support that will be hard to break. A source close to the McCarthy campaign said not one of their commitments was contingent on Labrador not getting into the race.

More important than the outcome itself, Labrador’s candidacy will be a test of how conservatives perform in a leadership race. A loss would show the difficulty in knocking off a well organized candidate with a sophisticated organization.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) is another conservative vying for a leadership slot. He’s running for whip against Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Peter Roskam of Illinois.

A small group of conservatives – not more than a dozen or two – have been pining for one of their own in leadership. They aren’t enough to change the outcome of a race. Scalise is the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee but is now considered by some as insufficiently conservative. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) dropped out of the majority leader race Thursday evening.

Labrador does have ties to the GOP’s Tea Party wing, and there have been some relatively positive responses to his entry into the race today. However, there’s a good possibility that his positions on immigration could cause trouble with many House conservatives:

Labrador, a native of Puerto Rico, has close ties to the issue of immigration. Before his election to Congress in 2010, he worked as an immigration attorney and secretly negotiated with a bipartisan group for months in 2013 to try to hammer out an immigration reform bill.

The comprehensive measure was known to include a 15-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But Labrador suddenly quit the group in June 2013 over a dispute on how to handle health care for undocumented immigrants.

The bipartisan House gang imploded later that year.

Since then, Labrador frequently spoke out against attempts to do immigration reform this year, going as far as to say Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) should lose his speakership gavel if he pursues an overhaul this year. Instead, Labrador has advocated for doing immigration reform next year, particularly if Republicans win control of the Senate.

Perhaps the biggest anti-immigration voice in the House GOP, Iowa’s Steve King, made his feelings about Labrador known before he entered the race:

In other tweets, King has made it known that he considers opposition to immigration reform to be a litmus test for candidates for Majority Leader:

Whether this means that King himself might try to make a  bid or not is unclear, but it would certainly seem to complicate any effort Labrador would make to get support from the House GOP Caucus’s conservative wing. In all honesty, though, Labrador would be facing an uphill battle even without the immigration issue complicating the situation. As I noted yesterday, McCarthy seems to have the election locked up and, with the party already facing a contentious battle for the Majority Whip position, it’s probable that House Republicans would rather avoid a contentious battle to replace Cantor.

Nothing’s official until the votes are counted, of course, but at this point I wouldn’t expect Labrador to pose a serious challenge.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    Wait a minute, if Steve King is critical of Labrador, then Raul must have his good points.

    Seriously, are there that many people who care what Steve King has to say about anything?

  2. @al-Ameda:

    Sadly, yes

  3. Is Labrador a yellow dog Republican?

  4. CSK says:

    I read that Labrador is running with the full expectation of losing, but to make a point. I’m wondering what that point is.

  5. stonetools says:

    Can both of them lose?
    Its a battle between well connected wingnut and less well connected wingnut.

  6. Moosebreath says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    “Is Labrador a yellow dog Republican?”

    Heh. I think he prefers chocolate, though.

  7. @stonetools:

    It’s a battle to be the guy in charge of running the House GOP Caucus. In the end, the winner is the loser

  8. CSK says:


    The Tea Party, so this will present a serious quandary for them. They loved Labrador as a true patriot, but finding out from another one of their idols that he’s an amnesty-loving RINO traitor will throw them into a major tizzy. Not, mind you, that that is hard.

  9. Matt Bernius says:

    Labrador was on Hannity’s radio today doing the full court “I’m a conservative and against amnesty” dance. Among his classic lines — the Congressional Republicans are too moderate. And that they only time they’re successful is when they are pursuing a true conservative agenda.

    Oh, and that the most important thing in the immigration debate is securing the border. Because people are pouring over it everyday.

    In the meantime, Sean kept bringing up that Kevin McCarthy was part of a secret meeting of Republican congressional leaders to plan how to destroy the Tea Party.

    Good times in media land.

  10. Pinky says:

    I’d support anyone who has a great name. Raul Labrador, Patrick McHenry, Tammy Duckworth…if Delroy Lindo ran for office, I’d quit my job and volunteer at his campaign headquarters.

  11. @Matt Bernius:

    Labrador was on Hannity’s radio today doing the full court “I’m a conservative and against amnesty” dance.

    His Master’s Voice

  12. Janis Gore says:

    @Matt Bernius: What do you think is a true conservative agenda?

    Personally, I think it’s the 50’s era when white men had no competition in the marketplace.

  13. Janis Gore says:

    @Janis Gore: Nostalgia. A good many of many of us liked our lives as children.

    Not me. I was born in ’57 in Dallas, Texas. I saw white flight, the Kennedy assassination, the resistance to integration, the enforcement of integration, the assassination of Malcolm X, the assassination of Martin Luther King, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War,
    and it didn’t feel too bad to wear a dog tag (purchased individually) for identification in case of nuclear war and duck and cover drills gave me at least some sense of security.

  14. Janis Gore says:

    And that was all before I was 12. Not to mention the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Temptations and the Supremes ( without and with Diana Ross), and the ’68 Chicago riots.

  15. Janis Gore says:

    Exclusions: I read Betty Friedan, too. And Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird.