Washington — New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik will make her pitch to House Republicans in a candidate forum Thursday evening in her bid to replace Congresswoman Liz Cheney as GOP conference chair, the day after Cheney was unceremoniously ousted from her post due to her persistent criticism of former President Donald Trump. But Stefanik won’t be the only candidate addressing the conference. Representative Chip Roy, of Texas, will be running against her.
Stefanik is considered the frontrunner for the post, as she has support from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, prominent Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan and Mr. Trump himself. No other Republican has formally thrown their hat in the ring, but a few conservative members have raised concerns about Stefanik’s credentials. A final vote is expected on Friday.
Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus whoindicating that he would not support Stefanik, is also launching a bid, a Roy spokesperson told CBS News. His office said in a statement Wednesday that Roy was “not ruling anything out,” arguing that “this must be a contested race — not a coronation.”
Roy will likely participate in Thursday night’s candidate forum. According to Republican conference rules, each member will have two minutes to make a statement, followed by 15 minutes of question and answer. Conference vice chair Mike Johnson will preside over the forum.
Congressman Ken Buck, another member of the Freedom Caucus, told reporters on Wednesday that he believed Stefanik was a “liberal” and said he would not support her. When asked who he would prefer to support for conference chair, Buck indicated that he would prefer anyone else.
“How many members do we have? 212? Probably 211. Actually, not me. So 210,” Buck joked. Buck will be nominating Roy for the post.
But Jordan has pointed out that Stefanik has been a staunch supporter of Mr. Trump, and said that he believed she would be able to effectively represent the positions of House Republicans. Stefanik was one of the former president’s most vocal supporters during the 2019 impeachment trial, and has been called a “star” by Mr. Trump.
“She’s an effective communicator,” Jordan told reporters on Tuesday.
In a statement on Thursday evening, Mr. Trump reiterated his support for Stefanik.
“Can’t imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy—he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district. I support Elise, by far, over Chip!” Mr. Trump said. According to FiveThiryEight, Roy voted with Trump’s position 89.5% of the time, and Stefanik voted with Trump’s position 77.7% of the time.
Stefanik spoke with members of the Freedom Caucus on Wednesday evening, seeking to assuage some concerns. But she has noted that she already has support from a significant portion of the conference.
Stefanik said Wednesday afternoon she “absolutely” believes she has a majority of votes to be conference chair even if someone else jumps in the race. Speaking to reporters, she cited support from Freedom Caucus, the Republican Study Committee and the more moderate Tuesday group.
Asked about her message to members of the Freedom Caucus on Wednesday night, Stefanik said, “We have a lot of support from individual members in the Freedom Caucus.”
“I think it’s important that the conference chair listen to all members of the conference,” Stefanik said. She reiterated her confidence on Thursday, telling reporters that she “feels great.”