California Republican Kevin McCarthy struck out three times Tuesday in his bid to replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi as next the U.S. House speaker.
Whether he manages to build a stronger coalition of votes that can get him the speaker’s gavel on Wednesday, or someone else ultimately usurps him remains to be seen.
So far, some names being floated as possible GOP alternatives include Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who received votes in each of Tuesday’s three ballots; Steve Scalise, of Louisiana; and Patrick T. McHenry, of North Carolina. If, however, those representatives don’t muster the votes, could Illinois’ own U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood have a chance?
It’s likely a reach, but maybe. It depends on who you ask.
“I don’t know that at the moment he would come up in terms ... that you have to be a compromise fit between the two warring factions as an acceptable alternative,” said Kent Redfield, a retired political science professor from the University of Illinois Springfield.
The anti-McCarthy faction, Redfield said, is looking for a speaker who would allow for more independence for the rank-and-file members.
Those who support McCarthy are looking for a leader with experience in leadership roles and who will hold members’ “feet to the fire to keep the caucus together,” Redfield said.
LaHood doesn’t jump to the front for Redfield, he said, because the Peoria congressman is simply not high enough in the party leadership.
Neither is LaHood a member of the 19 who have held out on the McCarthy ballots and floated their own candidates for the speaker’s seat, Redfield said.
LaHood’s camp said his support is firmly behind McCarthy. In a prepared statement sent Tuesday evening, LaHood said he will continue to support McCarthy for the role.
“I believe he deserves the opportunity to lead our Republican majority. No one has worked harder to support Republicans and put us in the majority than Kevin McCarthy,” LaHood said in the statement.
LaHood – whose district now runs from northern border of Illinois south past Peoria – does have bona fides within his party. The Illinois Republican sits on the Ways & Means Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In the 2022 election cycle, LaHood also was the National Republican Congressional Committee’s finance chair, putting him in charge of the House Republicans’ fundraising efforts. His name has been mentioned as a possibility to head the NRCC heading into the 2024 election.
LaHood has raised a lot of money for GOP candidates, said John T. Shaw, the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
“Darin LaHood is well-liked in the House Republican caucus. He has worked hard for the party,” and is doing good work on his committee assignments, Shaw said.
LaHood has been around the party long enough that he has experience, but not enough to add the personal baggage that can come with a longer tenure, Shaw said.
In his estimation, Scalise of Louisiana is the more likely candidate, Shaw said, but he said LaHood is not out of the question.
“If the Republicans decide to reshuffle the deck and just get someone who is new, fresh and different, Darin LaHood could be in play,” Shaw said. “He is well liked and has an affable and engaging personality.”
How many ballots it could take for before a speaker is elected also remains an unknown, Redfield said. He doesn’t see the House Democrats pushing for an answer either.
“This is terrible and chaotic, and there is no incentive for the Dems to do anything,” Redfield said. “One of the first rules of politics is never interrupt the opposition when they are setting themselves on fire.”