Shadegg Enters Majority Leader Race

Little-known Arizona Rep. John Shadegg has thrown his hat into the ring to replace Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader. While his two opponents, Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt and Ohio’s John Boehner have been running for several days and claim to have lined up over 100 of the necessary 116 votes, Shadegg has won support of key conservative groups.

Rep. Shadegg joins House leadership race (Reuters/WaPo)

A Republican leadership race in the U.S. House of Representatives became more crowded on Friday when an Arizona conservative announced he would join the race for majority leader and vowed to distance the office from a growing lobbying scandal. “I believe that we need a clean break from the scandals of the recent past,” said U.S. Rep. John Shadegg, now in his sixth term in the House.

Shadegg tried to distinguish himself from Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt, who claims to be close to locking up the early February race for the No. 2 leadership spot in the House. Blunt has been part of a Republican leadership team that had been dominated by Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, who is facing felony charges related to a campaign finance case and who also has had a close relationship with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The nonprofit consumer group Public Citizen also has taken aim against Blunt, calling him “unfit for a leadership position” because of his corporate relationships. Blunt has denied any ethical or legal breaches.

Also in the race is Ohio Rep. John Boehner, who, like Blunt, Shadegg and many members of the House and Senate, has received campaign funds from groups represented by Abramoff. Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud charges this month and agreed to cooperate in a corruption probe that could involve several members of Congress.

House Republicans are scheduled to vote on February 2 for a permanent replacement for DeLay, who was forced to step aside as majority leader in September after his indictment on conspiracy and money laundering charges.

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Shadegg, who came to Congress in the Revolutionary Class of 1994, was elected by acclamation as Policy Chairman in January of 2005. He has previously served as Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, and as a subcommittee chairman on the Homeland Security Committee. He is a long-time member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

“I am aware of the difficulty of winning this election. I face well-organized opponents with tremendous resources,” Shadegg said. “However, I believe in the power of Republican ideas, and I believe that we need a clean break from the scandals of the recent past. I hope every member of the Republican Conference will join with me in the coming days to craft an agenda of reforms that will fully regain the confidence of the American people.”

John Gizzi, writing for Human Events under the unfortunate title of “Gizz-ette,” describes the impetus for Shadegg’s run:

With the decision by embattled Rep. Tom DeLay (R.-Tex.) to step down as House majority leader and the resulting fierce contest for succession between Republican Representatives Roy Blunt (Mo.) and John Boehner (Ohio), a number of conservatives in the Republican House majority are saying they want to see Rep. John Shadegg (R.-Ariz.) enter the race.

These conservatives were looking for a candidate not only committed to advancing the conservative agenda but also, unlike Blunt and Boehner, free of extensive ties to the high-powered lobbying networks that often have been linked to DeLay.


Speculation turned immediately to Shadegg, a close Pence ally and fellow conservative activist. The son of Steve Shadegg, Barry Goldwater̢۪s longtime political quarterback, John Shadegg has also served as chairman of the Study Committee and now chairs the House Republican Policy Committee. Elected to Congress in the Class of 1994 that gave Republicans a majority in the House after four decades of Democratic control, Shadegg still champions such key positions of that class as defunding the National Endowment for the Arts and he has backed inventive proposals such as one to permit states to opt out of the minimum wage increase.

A variety of House Republicans volunteered to me that they were not pleased with either Blunt or Boehner as candidates for leader and were encouraging Shadegg to take a shot in the leadership election, which Speaker Dennis Hastert has announced will be hold February 2.

Shadegg spokesman Michael Steel told me: “The congressman is in Phoenix attending the funeral of his best friend’s father, but has been receiving many calls of encouragement and will make a decision soon.†Noting that Shadegg has known me “longer than any Washington reporter,†Steel promised, “You will be among the first to know.â€

For many conservatives, choosing between five-termer Blunt and nine-termer Boehner—who is assistant majority whip, past chairman of the House Republican Conference and chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee—is like rewiring an old jalopy rather than purchasing a new vehicle. Although both lawmakers have strongly conservative voting records (both have a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 94%), Blunt and Boehner are perceived as part of the same Republican team that has increasingly fumbled in advancing a conservative agenda in the House and, in the process, has disappointed grassroots activists.

With Blunt as acting majority leader (assuming the spot after DeLay’s indictment on campaign finance violations in Texas last year), the House GOP failed to deliver an appropriations package that included oiling drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) after it had passed the Senate. Boehner, critics point out, helped guide the big-spending “No Child Left Behind†federal education package favored by the Bush Administration and opposed by most conservatives to passage in the House. Both supported the President’s Medicare/prescription drug entitlement, the largest new welfare program since President Johnson’s Great Society.

Additionally, Blunt and Boehner both have close ties to lobbyists on Washington’s K Street—not a point of recommendation considering Congress may be headed, in the wake of Jack Abramoff’s guilty plea, toward the biggest lobbying-related scandal in decades. As the headline on the January 11 edition of the Washington Post put it: “Lobbying Colors GOP Leadership Contest; Rivals for DeLay Post No Stranger to K Street.â€

“Long before the Jack Abramoff business took off, a lot of us were saying the party needs a new look and a new face in the House,†Rep. Walter Jones (R.-N.C.), a veteran of the House Class of 1994, told me. “Look, I have great respect for the two people running for leader, but neither can clearly say he is not part of the leadership. If we are going to survive as a majority in the House, we have to go with someone new.†Jones said he had “called John Shadegg and encouraged him to make the race.â€

The Directors at RedState pre-emptively endorsed Shadegg yesterday.

The first I’d ever heard of Shadegg was with Robert Prather’s post on the “Enumerated Powers Act,” which Shadegg sponsored and, predictably, went nowhere.

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James Joyner
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  1. Anderson says:

    The RedState endorsement would seem to indicate that Shadegg is too far right to be electable to the spot. But who knows. The harder right the Republicans want to turn in early 2006, the better.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I don’t know that much about Shadegg. My reading of the RedState folks is that they’re almost single issue on this one: No one with ties to the K-Street project. I’m with them on that, at least. I reserve judgment on Shadegg, otherwise.

  3. That act was the first I’d heard of him also. Haven’t heard much since, but am open to anyone that will help the Republicans regain focus.