Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has officially announced his bid for Speaker of the House, throwing his hat into the ring even as votes are still being counted to determine which party will control the lower chamber.
McCarthy, who has long eyed the Speaker’s gavel, sent a letter to House Republicans on Wednesday asking for their support in his quest for the top spot in the chamber.
He pointed to the party’s midterm victories — including toppling the head of the Democrats’ campaign arm — saying that while votes are still being counted, signs are pointing in the GOP’s direction.
“While a number of races remain outstanding, I can confidently report that we will join that list, build on our significant gains from last cycle, and achieve our goal of taking back the House,” McCarthy said in his letter.
“Now, we will be measured by what we do with our majority. Now, the real work begins. That is why I am running to serve as Speaker of the People’s House and humbly ask for your support,” he added.
Republicans were favored to win control of the House, according to several forecasters, but two days after Election Day, the balance of power in the chamber remains unknown. At 4 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, Republicans controlled 208 seats and Democrats held 188.
If Republicans do win the majority, it will likely be by a far smaller margin than initially anticipated, when many in the party were predicting a “red wave.” That fact could complicate McCarthy’s bid for the Speakership — particularly if the conservative House Freedom Caucus refuses to support his run, or if they put forward their own candidate to challenge the California Republican.
No other lawmakers, however, have announced runs for the top spot thus far.
McCarthy came close to securing the Speakership in 2015 before taking himself out of the running just before members were set to vote on the top spot. The then-majority leader dropped out after drawing criticism for comments that suggested that there was a political motive behind the conference’s investigation into the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
He drew a link between the investigation and poll numbers for Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of State at the time of the attack and later became the 2016 Democratic nominee for president.
McCarthy ultimately had a difficult time winning support from the Freedom Caucus.
This time around, however, the California Republican is expressing a greater sense of optimism in his quest for the Speaker’s gavel. He told New York Magazine in an interview published last month that he is “better prepared now” to lead as Speaker.
Earlier in October, the GOP leader told Punchbowl News that if he does not win the top spot this time, it is “not in God’s plan for me to be Speaker.”
In his letter on Wednesday, McCarthy said, “I am determined to ensure that this majority reaches its full potential.”
“Starting today, it is up to each one of us to demonstrate leadership on the issues that matter most and do what is required to get America back on track. There is no time to waste,” he later wrote.
“Speaking to so many of you, I know you are ready for this important job before us. It will not always be easy or even pretty — but if we stick together and maintain our mission, I am confident we can make a real difference for this nation we love,” he added. “America deserves nothing less.”