Rep. Stefanik Works to Win Over GOP Colleagues, Hold Off Late Leadership Challenge Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. (Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Thursday, 13 May 2021 01:32 PM
Less than 24 hours before a Friday morning vote in which House GOP members are expected to elect Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to replace anti-Trump Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., as party chair, the 36-year-old frontrunner was reportedly still fending off a challenge from at least one other Republican.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, has been weighing a bid for the party's No. 3 position in the House, two sources told the Daily Caller on Wednesday.
Stefanik, a moderate Republican who gradually became one of former President Donald Trump's staunchest defenders in the lower chamber, quickly emerged as the favorite to replace Cheney, who was removed from her leadership position on Wednesday morning after a reportedly near-unanimous voice vote.
The vote on Cheney's successor is set for 8:30 a.m. ET on Friday.
Stefanik was rumored as a top candidate to replace Cheney days before the Wyoming congresswoman was booted from her perch. Stefanik's candidacy, however, really took off once she secured Trump's support, with other GOP leaders – including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Freedom Caucus cofounder Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio – also publicly backing Stefanik.
Her potential rival, Roy, is also a member of the Freedom Caucus, and is one of a contingent of conservatives to publicly express concerns about Stefanik. He sent a memo to every Republican office in the conference Tuesday, arguing Stefanik should not be serving in leadership and citing a long list of issues with her voting record.
"I don't believe there should be a coronation," Roy told reporters Wednesday, according to Politico. "I believe that if the leader wants us to be united, then he should take the time to do this the right way."
Roy, who has been pushing for a delay in the conference chair election, declined to say whether he was considering an official challenge for the position.
"Let's see what happens over the next 24 hours," he said.
A Roy spokesperson said the congressman was not "ruling anything out."
"His focus is on serving Texas' 21st Congressional district, the American people, and the Constitution," the spokesperson said in a statement. "But if the position must be filled, then this must be a contested race — not a coronation."
One source told Politico that Roy planned to jump into the race if no one else does.
Stefanik, meanwhile, has been assuring members she would not buck leadership on big votes, and insisted she did not plan to stay in the job beyond 2022, with her eye reportedly on a key committee seat. As part of her outreach efforts, Stefanik took part in a forum with the Freedom Caucus, led by Trump supporter Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., on Wednesday evening.
"My message was I'm focused on unifying the conference and beating Democrats and we have an opportunity to do that; that is historic in beating the most radical socialist agenda in this country," Stefanik said after the meeting, according to CNN.
Rep. Russ Fulcher, R-Idaho, said Stefanik faced plenty of "blunt questions" from the group, and she was given the opportunity to explain her voting record – the caucus' greatest concern about her, according to Fulcher.
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., who endorsed Stefanik, praised her performance before the Freedom Caucus.
"I think Elise acquitted herself well," Donalds said. "She took the questions from the members. She was very poignant, she was very direct."
The freshman Republican added, it is possible she "won some hearts and minds."
Cheney, one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, survived a vote earlier this year to oust her as party chair but turned off many GOP colleagues by continuing to deploy her repeated verbal attacks aimed at Trump and supporters who question the integrity of the 2020 election.