The House Republican Conference is set to hold a “candidate forum” on Thursday to discuss who should be their next conference chair after ousting Rep. Liz Cheney from the post Wednesday, and Rep. Elise Stefanik says she “absolutely” has the votes to secure the spot in GOP leadership.
Stefanik, R-NY., is the only declared candidate for the post so far, though Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, is considering launching his own bid, The Daily Caller reported. A bid from Roy or any other member would be an extreme longshot, as Stefanik has support from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and many other top conference members.
A major topic at the candidate forum is likely to be complaints from some in the Republican conference that Stefanik – a staunch Trump defender whose supporters also include the former president and Donald Trump Jr. – isn’t conservative enough.
Stefanik voted with President Trump less often than Cheney did during the former president’s tenure, according to FiveThirtyEight, and has rather low voting scores from the American Conservative Union and the conservative group Heritage Action.
Stefanik said Wednesday she is working proactively to address concerns from some members, largely members of the Freedom Caucus, like Roy, about her past votes.
“Today I continued many conversations with my GOP colleagues who are members of the Freedom Caucus, RSC, & Tuesday Group. All informative & productive discussions,” she tweeted. “We have a strong team who are unified in our vision to fight back against the radical Socialist Democrat agenda.”
She also told reporters, of her meetings with the Republican Study Committee and the Freedom Caucus, that “it’s important that the conference chair listen to all members of the conference.”
The conference chair position is largely considered to be a messaging position, which is why many Republicans support Stefanik for the post. She has been in the House since 2015 but rose to prominence during the 2019 impeachment hearings for her staunch defense of the former president.
Stefanik was eventually named the honorary chair of Trump’s reelection effort in New York. And she gained notoriety for her attacks on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his cascading scandal.
With Republicans believing they are in a strong position to take back the House of Representatives in 2022, Stefanik’s fundraising prowess is also likely to be an asset as she makes her case why she should be in a leadership position. Stefanik notably assisted many of the freshman Republican women who were elected in 2020, a class of new members that’s been hailed as historically diverse for the party.
Whoever is the new conference chair, with newfound responsibility for steering the party to a majority in 2022, will still have to deal with the distraction of claims made by Trump and others in the GOP that the presidential election was stolen. As the clear frontrunner Wednesday, Stefanik was asked whether she stood by previous claims of her own that there were more than 100,000 illegal votes in one county in Georgia, which Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger called “ludicrous,” according to the Washington Post.
Stefanik said the number came from court filings and there are “serious issues related to election irregularities” in Georgia and other states.
Republicans have largely aimed to put the election in the rearview mirror and mend fences with the former president. McCarthy has met with Trump in Florida and has harped on the need for Republicans to remain united in opposition to President Biden. Stefanik had a similar message in a letter Wednesday to Republicans members as she officially announced her bid for conference chair.
“Despite the media’s endless attempts to divide us, our Members are united in our laser focus on defeating the radical Socialist Democrat agenda of President Biden and Speaker Pelosi,” she wrote. “Our members believe the stakes are far too high for us to be divided.”
Stefanik continued to promise a “disciplined, unified message from our leadership team.”
Fox News was told this week to expect a vote on Friday for Cheney’s successor.
Fox News’ Jason Donner and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.