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Stutzman trying to whip up support for leadership role

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, says he is running for House majority whip because nobody else from his conservative circle was willing to do so.

“They were not happy with anyone who was running, and I said, ‘Well, you know what? You’re not going to beat somebody with nobody, and so somebody’s got to run,’” he said Friday about a Wednesday dinner conversation with several colleagues.

He also was in contact with other House members who were contemplating getting into the contest.

“I said, ‘Look, if you don’t run, I’m going to,’ ” he said in an interview during a visit to Fort Wayne. “They called me the next morning, and said they they’re not going to. So I said, ‘Well, I am.’”

Stutzman is among three candidates in a closed-door caucus election next Thursday to replace Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California as whip, the person responsible for “whipping” up support for leadership positions on legislation and gauging how GOP members intend to vote on bills.

McCarthy is running to succeed Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was upset in Tuesday’s Republican congressional primary election in Virginia and will step down as majority leader at the end of July.

On a day that Stutzman should have been on Capitol Hill whipping up votes for himself, he instead was in Fort Wayne for a series of appearances that included a visit to the Urban 4-H farm along East Tillman Road.

Stutzman, a corn and soybean producer in LaGrange County, said he received seven emails and four text messages about the whip race while speaking with about 30 urban farm officials and participants. He was scheduled to return to Washington later Friday.

He said he will try to call or meet with each of the other 232 Republicans in the House ahead of Thursday’s vote.

“It’s me talking to my colleagues, and hoping to earn their trust, and explain to them what I think we can do better in our operation to be on the same page more often than not,” he said about the often-fractured GOP majority.

Also running for whip are Reps. Peter Roskam of Illinois and Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Roskam is McCarthy’s chief deputy whip.

McCarthy removed Stutzman from the whip team last year after Stutzman voted against party rules on amending and debating the farm bill.

Stutzman had insisted that food stamps be stripped from agriculture policies, but his amendments to do that were rejected by the House Rules Committee.

The farm bill failed to pass – Stutzman was among 62 Republicans and 172 Democrats opposing it – and the House later narrowly approved what Stutzman called a “farm-only farm bill” before restoring food stamps this year in a compromise with the Senate.

Stutzman said Friday that being booted from the whip team could work in his favor as a whip candidate.

“I think it should show folks that I’m willing to work together and get a project across the line. But that I’m also willing to say, ‘Hey, I see a problem here,’” he said.

Politico reported that as of Thursday night, Scalise was thought to have about 100 votes, Roskam about 75 and Stutzman about two dozen. There is speculation that Stutzman and Scalise will split the conservative vote Thursday, giving Roskam the advantage. Republicans will cast votes in a series of runoffs until someone wins a majority of votes cast.

“I think the strongest conservative candidate will ultimately win, and I think I’m that person,” Stutzman said. “I think I’ve got a shot. It’s a long shot, but there’s a shot there.

“I’ve been in these situations before,” he said. “I’ve been an underdog in a lot of different situations. But if you don’t get out and try, you’ll never know.”