WASHINGTON – House Republicans picked Rep. John Boehner of Ohio as their new majority leader Thursday, one month after Rep. Tom DeLay stepped down permanently to deal with a campaign financing-related indictment in his home state of Texas.
Boehner succeeded in a second-round ballot to oust Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, 122-109, after he trailed behind in the first round of voting.
"I'm humbled by the support of my colleagues to be the new majority leader for Republicans in the House," Boehner said.
"I never came here because I wanted to be a congressman. I came here to help solve the problems that the American people face every day," Boehner added, saying he wants to address issues like jobs and national security.
Blunt appeared gracious in defeat.
"I am absolutely at peace with their decision," Blunt said. "We have a great leadership team. We're going to work to make the Congress better, more importantly we're going to work to make the country better, and I look forward to working with John Boehner as majority leader to make that happen."
A third candidate, Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, withdrew from the race after he failed to garner a majority of votes on the first ballot. Rep. Jim Ryun of Kansas, who did not announce any candidacy, also withdrew after receiving two votes in the first round.
"I have no regrets about the race," Shadegg of Arizona said. "I think we caused the debate to change and the race went forward."
Shadegg said he would continue to push for lobbying reform legislation, an issue he focused on during his campaign and has received considerable attention since Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty in federal court in exchange for helping prosecutors pin congressional members for taking contributions in exchange for favorable votes relating to Abramoff's clients.
"I think this election shows that we are, in fact, listening and we did respond," Shadegg said.
Boehner, who has spent eight terms in Congress, won the second round of voting, which was required under GOP rules for a majority of votes for victory. The first round awarded Blunt with 110 votes, Boehner with 79 votes and Shadegg with 40 votes, according to congressional aides.
After the vote, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., called Boehner "a fresh face."
"It wouldn't be credible for the same leaders to be advocating change," Flake said, adding he hoped Blunt would stay on as majority whip, the No. 3 spot in the House leadership that Blunt held before being named acting majority leader. Blunt said Thursday after the election that he planned to keep his position.
President Bush called Boehner and Blunt from Air Force One, en route to Albuquerque on Thursday.
Bush congratulated Boehner, saying he looked forward to working with him. The president also thanked Blunt for his work on the deficit reduction legislation.
The election comes as Republicans face potential challenges in midterm elections amid ethics problems, bribes and a federal corruption probe.
Boehner and Shadegg have campaigned as outsiders on Capitol Hill in efforts to show that they would be better able to clean up a tainted Republican image following the Abramoff scandal. Boehner campaigned aggressively on Wednesday in an attempt to deny Blunt a majority on the first round of voting.
Blunt spent the last 24 days campaigning against his opponents on a platform that he had experience as majority whip and as DeLay's temporary replacement.
"This is not a party stuck in neutral," Blunt said as the race began, dismissing a claim made by Boehner. "This is an opportunity for reform."
Meanwhile, there was some confusion after the first round of voting.
They had 230 eligible GOP voters, but after the first round, they had 231 ballots cast.
Republicans realized they had forgotten to count Luis Fortuno, Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative in Congress, as the extra vote. Fortuno cannot vote on legislation on the House floor but is allowed to vote in his party's caucus.
Although it was a Republican leadership race, Democrats kept a close watch.
"The Republicans in Congress sent a clear message to the American people about what they can expect from Republican leadership: more of the same," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "Replacing scandal-plagued Tom DeLay with every lobbyists' first choice, John Boehner, is not the kind of reform Americans have been calling for."
DeLay chose Blunt as chief deputy whip after he had won his second term in 1998 in his southwestern Missouri district. Shadegg said Blunt received a standing ovation from fellow Republicans and he believed he wouldn't be pushed out of his position.
"I don't believe that will happen, which I believe is a signal of us coming together," Shadegg said.
Boehner was the only of the three candidates to have started his congressional career when Democrats were in control, joining the Gang of Seven, a group of young lawmakers that helped to oust Democratic members by raising ethics questions involving the House bank and Democrats.
Boehner won a place in leadership when Republicans gained a majority in 1994. But he lost it four years later after he and DeLay clashed. Boehner then became chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee in 2001, where he helped guide President Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative into law.
The 56-year-old Cincinnati native has also been caught up in his own ethics complaint. In October 2004, Boehner was awarded $60,000 and attorney's fees after a D.C. District Court judge ruled Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., violated Boehner's rights to privacy by distributing a taped phone call of Boehner and Republican leaders that was taped by two Democratic activists who were able to pipe into Boehner's cell phone.
FOX News' Brian Wilson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.