Eight Candidates Vie for Republican Speaker Nomination

FILE - The speaker's dais is seen in the House of Representatives of the Capitol in W
(J. Scott Applewhite, File/AP

House Republicans begin voting Tuesday on their next Speaker nomination in a new phase of the process which features eight candidates for the gavel.

The conference met Monday night for two and a half hours for a candidate forum featuring nine candidates, although Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA) withdrew from consideration after giving his speech.

After a long month, Republicans leaving Monday’s meeting almost uniformly expressed a desire to get this over and behind them, with most expressing — or projecting — optimism that the House could elect a Speaker Tuesday.

Republicans will huddle on the first floor of the Longworth House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. to begin what may be a long process of whittling down the candidate pool from eight to one. After each round, the candidate with the lowest vote total is eliminated, and another round begins.

Voting continues until a candidate receives a majority.

There are 224 members of the House Republican Conference, although three members representing territories are unable to vote for Speaker on the House floor.

Due to vacancies, 217 votes are needed on the House floor to deliver the gavel. The 212 Democrats are expected to vote together for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).

With so many candidates, most members have opted against public endorsements and have been mum about whom they will support. Candidate strategies vary, with some trying to make a strong statement on the first ballot and other simply trying to expand beyond “favorite son” support to remain in the game for another round.

These are the eight remaining candidates in alphabetical order.

Jack Bergman (MI)

Bergman, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, is the highest ranking combat veteran to serve in Congress in history. He has pitched himself as a candidate who can unify the House for the remainder of this Congress.

The fourth-term Congressman described the sense of “a need to move forward” in last night’s meeting, but remained mum on his chances. “I have a path to at least get up in the morning and get there, you know, but the point is we’ll see, because we’re gonna start having a round of votes and a round of votes.”

Byron Donalds (FL)

Donalds has the backing of members as diverse as hardline conservative Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and establishment Republicans from his own state in Reps. Carlos Gimenez, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Vern Buchanan. He’s likely to carry the strong support of his House Freedom Caucus colleagues and Florida delegation tomorrow.

“You know me, I’m always confident,” Donalds said Monday night. “I feel good, but it’s up to the members, it’s in their hands now.” In describing his pitch to members, Donalds said, “We need to get back to work, we need to get our bills done, we have to continue to fight for securing our border, and I think I’m the member who can help us get our conference united.”

Tom Emmer (MN)

Majority Whip Emmer is the highest-ranking member of the Republican conference running after Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) withdrew over a week ago. Emmer ran the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) for two cycles before ascending to his current position, earning points with members who won elections with the NRCC’s backing. As whip, Emmer has institutional advantages over other candidates, but it remains to be seen how high his ceiling will be.

Emmer has an endorsement from his ally Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), but he also carries the baggage as the candidate in this race singled out by allies of President Donald Trump as not meeting with the President’s approval.

Kevin Hern (OK)

The successful McDonald’s franchisee and chair of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the House’s largest conservative bloc, made calls to his colleagues during his short run for Majority Leader when Scalise was the Speaker nominee. He’s used the relationships from that run and as RSC chair to leverage his position in the Speaker’s race.

“I didn’t get in this to come in second or to lose,” Hern said. “I think I bring a different kind of background, spending 25 years bringing organizations together. When you have large organizations, a large group of people together as we do here in Congress, there’s always gonna be dissimilar interests and it’s always about trying to pull those together to get accomplishments done.”

Mike Johnson (LA)

Johnson is polished and likable but has often been an attack dog on the Judiciary Committee. That mix of friendliness and toughness may appeal to members who want to get back to governing together as a conference while remaining tough on performing oversight of the Biden Administration.

“My theme is simply trust and teamwork,” Johnson said of his pitch. “We have to get back on track.”

Gary Palmer (AL)

Palmer was a last-minute addition to this list, submitting his name moments before Sunday’s noon deadline. A self-described policy wonk and chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, Palmer is known for policy papers and bullet points more than media hits.

True to form, Palmer and his team handed out his policy platform to members and press last night at the candidate forum.

Austin Scott (GA)

“I feel like there are a lot of members in our conference that have what it would take to be the Speaker of the House. I do not in any shape or fashion think I’m the only person in the Republican conference who has what it takes to be the Speaker of the House. I told my colleagues, if you’ll accept someone who’s honest, who’s got courage and a strong work ethic, I’d love to be your Speaker,” Scott said.

Pete Sessions (TX)

Sessions was long seen as a potential future leadership member before losing an election to Rep. Colin Allred (R-TX) and returning to Congress two years later representing a new district. Since then, the congenial Sessions has mostly kept a low profile.

As a Texan, Sessions has a strong geographic base of support — if he can get the Texas delegation behind him.

Follow Bradley Jaye on Twitter at @BradleyAJaye.


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