In a letter sent Monday night to his GOP House colleagues, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, sought support for the Majority Leader position formerly held by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., telling fellow Republicans that Americans "are looking for a change in the status quo."
Labrador, a Tea Party Republican who first came to Congress in 2011, is challenging Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican generally seen as the favorite to win. But Labrador said that Cantor's stunning loss to Tea Party favorite Dave Brat is a sign that changes need to be made within the Party leadership.
As of last week, the Washington Examiner said, McCarthy claimed to have secured the support of over half the GOP conference. Many more are planning to support him in order to ensure "continuity."
But Labrador said that unity is needed, not necessarily continuity. And right now, many grassroots conservatives simply do not trust the establishment GOP leadership.
"Promoting, by acclamation, a member of the very Washington leadership that has failed to bridge the divide with Republicans outside Washington struck me as exactly the wrong response," he wrote. "The simple fact is, Republicans will never again unite the country until we first unite our Party."
McCarthy, the Examiner added, is considered part of the GOP establishment with views similar to Cantor. Susan Ferrechio said both McCarthy and Cantor have "expressed support for immigration reform legislation that legalizes those who are living here illegally and provides some with a pathway to citizenship."
For conservatives, that translates to amnesty for illegal immigrants, and is wholly unacceptable.
Labrador, a former immigration lawyer born and raised in Puerto Rico, opposes amnesty, although he supports legal immigration and a guest worker program -- but only after the border is secured.
One roadblock Labrador has had to overcome, David M. Drucker reported at Examiner Monday, is the lack of basic contact information. According to Drucker, Labrador's staff was calling other offices, asking for things like cell phone numbers. Moreover, a number of Republican aides said it was the first time he's reached out to them, unlike McCarthy, who, Drucker added, has cultivated relationships with a broad cross-section of Republicans.
“If you don’t have contact numbers — much less have ever spoken with someone — you can’t get the votes,” one GOP aide told the Examiner.
The election is set to be held on Thursday.