With little more than a week to go before House Republicans elect a successor to Rep. Tom DeLay (R.-Tex) as their majority leader, Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona gained major momentum. In just the last 24 hours, the House Policy Committee chairman and favorite of conservative activists won the nomination of four colleagues—two of whom are not exactly considered conservatives of the Shadegg-Newt Gingrich stripe.
Yesterday, Rep. Charles Bass (R.-NH), a well-known moderate GOPer, weighed in for Shadegg for leader in the contest against Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Rep. John Boehner (Oh.). “I want moderate Republicans to understand that if you care about reform and you want a fresh face, this is the man to support,” said Bass, son of former Rep. (1958-62) Perkins “Small Mouth” Bass (R.-N.H.) and himself a supporter of abortion and statist campaign finance reform. Bass was subsequently joined in endorsing Shadegg by Rep. Curt Weldon (R.-Pa.)—more conservative than Bass but certainly not as much as Shadegg, who opposed the Bush White House on the ’03 prescription drug package and “No Child Left Behind” education package.
Shadegg’s fellow Arizonan, Rep. Jeff Flake, also endorsed him yesterday. Today, Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) also came out for Shadegg—Hoekstra’s endorsement being a particular surprise, as almost the entire Michigan delegation of House Republicans had ben expected to be for fellow Midwesterner Boehner.
The support of conservative Shadegg by non-conservatives is reminiscent to some of the way moderates backed Rep. Newt Gingrich (R.-GA) for Republican Whip in 1989, when incumbent Whip and then-Rep. Dick Cheney (R.-Wyo.) resigned to become secretary of defense. Although Gingrich was clearly to the right of his opponent, the late Republican Rep. Edward Madigan of Illinois, moderates such as then-Rep. Olympia Snowe (Maine) and present Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (NY) supported the Georgian because they felt he would be a more aggressive leader and put a fresh face on the Republican Party. Gingrich won in a cliff-hanger by a vote of 87-to-85.