WASHINGTON – Arizona Rep. John Shadegg entered the race for House majority leader Friday, saying he would offer real, substantive ethics reforms in the wake of Republican scandals.
Shadegg shakes up the race for majority leader, which has been a contest between Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt and Ohio Rep. John Boehner. Embattled Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, stepped down temporarily in September after he was indicted on charges of laundering campaign funds. DeLay announced Saturday that he would not try to regain the No. 2 House Republican leadership position.
Shadegg has said he doesn't have confidence that the two leading contenders for the position would help the House bring about enough meaningful reforms. Blunt, who has held been interim majority leader since fall, and Boehner both claim to have around 100 supporters, although they have not made all the names public. To win the post requires 116 votes in the 231-member GOP caucus.
Shadegg, who was elected in 1994, as will give up his current leadership post as Republican policy chairman.
"I am aware of the difficulty of winning this election," Shadegg said in a statement. "I face well-organized opponents with tremendous resources. However, I believe in the power of Republican ideas, and I believe that we need a clean break from the scandals of the recent past. I hope every member of the Republican Conference will join with me in the coming days to craft an agenda of reforms that will fully regain the confidence of the American people."
Shadegg is trying to position himself to run as a fresh face to Blunt and Boehner, each of whom has extensive ties to Washington's lobbyists. But Shadegg is not completely separate from Washington lobbyists himself. In December, he shed more than $6,900 in campaign contributions from sources connected with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Boehner and Blunt, have been competing over whose package would best reform the House's relationship with K Street lobbyists.
Shadegg and Republicans who have been urging him to run want the House to do more than reform lobbying practices. For example, they want to do away with the practice of earmarking, or burying local projects, in big spending bills.
Boehner said in a statement Friday that he welcomed Shadegg to the race.
"The campaign for House Majority Leader officially begins again today," Boehner said. "His entry into the majority leader race is further proof the conference isn't happy with the status quo. Between the two of us, we're going to make this race about reforming how the House does business and providing a real alternative to the status quo."
The Arizona conservative starts the campaign behind Blunt and Boehner, who have been working hard to line up supporters willing to make their names public. Large blocs of conservatives and westerners remain on the sidelines, and they may tend to gravitate to Shadegg.
The election is Feb. 2.
Blunt is currently acting as both whip and majority leader after DeLay's indictment last fall. For Blunt, that was a temporary arrangement that satisfied few Republicans. He was originally named chief deputy whip by DeLay in 1999 and won election to the No. 3 whip's post three years ago.
DeLay agreed not to seek the majority leader position under pressure from Republicans who expressed concerns about his ties to Abramoff.
Abramoff pleaded guilty last week to three federal felony charges related to congressional influence peddling.
Boehner won a seat at the leadership table, the No. 4 post in the GOP hierarchy, when Republicans gained power in the 1994 elections, the first GOP majority in 40 years. He lost it in the fallout after the party's poor showing in the 1998 midterm elections.
Since 2001, Boehner has served as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee and played a lead role in passing Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. He also engineered passage last month of a major pension overhaul bill.