A Look at Top Contenders to Succeed DeLay
WASHINGTON – A look at two Republicans who may seek the House majority leader post vacated by Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas:
ROY BLUNT of MISSOURI:
Low key and affable in public, Blunt presents a marked contrast to the hard-driving DeLay, whom Blunt succeeded as House Republican whip in 2003 and now may seek to ascend to the second-ranking post of majority leader.
Blunt, 56, has risen rapidly through his party's ranks since winning election to Missouri's 7th District in 1996. DeLay, who was the GOP whip at the time, tapped Blunt as his top deputy in 1999. Blunt became whip, in charge of counting and nailing down votes, when DeLay became majority leader in 2003.
Blunt took over as acting majority leader in September when DeLay, indicted by a Texas grand jury on charges of conspiring to violate political fundraising laws, was forced to step aside.
Blunt's early tenure was marked by uneven success as Republicans struggled to pass a deficit-cutting bill, then suffered the defeat of a bill to cut spending on social programs.
Republicans rebounded quickly, passing the deficit bill after making changes to mollify party moderates, then resurrecting the spending measure.
While different in style from the stridently partisan DeLay, Blunt is equally conservative and took a leading role in moving President Bush's tax cut packages through the House. As whip, Blunt took the lead last year in the uphill struggle to secure votes needed to pass the Central America Free Trade Agreement.
Blunt was raised on a farm near Springfield, Mo., the son of a dairy farmer and a state legislator. After teaching high school government and history, Blunt became involved in Republican politics. In 1984, Blunt became his state's first Republican secretary of state in more than 50 years.
Blunt lost in the GOP primary for governor in 1992. For the next four years, he was president of his alma mater, Southwest Baptist University. In 1996, when the Republican incumbent retired, Blunt easily captured a seat in Congress from his solidly Republican district.
Blunt garnered some controversy when he unsuccessfully tried to slip a measure into the 2002 bill creating the Homeland Security Department that would have benefited tobacco giant Philip Morris. At the time Blunt had a personal relationship with a lobbyist for the company, Abigail Perlman. Blunt divorced his wife of 35 years and married Perlman in 2003.
Blunt has three children, including Matt Blunt, who was elected Missouri governor last year.
JOHN BOEHNER OF OHIO:
Boehner came to Congress 15 years ago as a crusader against what he saw as the excesses of Democratic power. He was elected to the leadership when Republicans gained a majority in the 1994 election landslide. Boehner lost his post in the hierarchy four years later amid internal struggles following a coup attempt against then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.
As chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Boehner helped shepherd Bush's No Child Left Behind education bill through the House. In 2002, Bush traveled to Boehner's district on Ohio's western border to sign the measure into law.
Boehner has a strong conservative record, but has also shown an ability to reach across party lines. He pushed pension legislation through the House last year, attracting nearly 300 votes after a last-minute accommodation with the United Auto Workers.
Boehner, 56, was born in Cincinnati to a family of 12 children. He ran a successful plastics and packaging company before winning local and state elections in the 1980s and capturing his seat in Congress in 1990.
During his freshmen year, Boehner became part of the "Gang of Seven" that went after the ethical lapses, mainly of the Democratic majority, including the House Bank scandal. It turned out that lawmakers were writing checks to the House's internal bank without the money to back them up.
Boehner and his wife, Debbie, have two daughters.