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Stutzman encouraged despite losing whip race

U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman failed Thursday in his bid for a leadership post among House Republicans. But he said his weeklong effort was valuable training should he try again.

Stutzman, R-3rd, lost a three-candidate race for majority whip to Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, who received a majority of the votes cast to win on the first round of the secret ballot. The whip is the No. 3 leadership position in the Republican caucus, behind speaker and majority leader.

“These things take time,” Stutzman said in a telephone interview after the vote results were announced. “That’s what conservatives need to recognize, that if you want a seat at the leadership table, you’ve got to take the time, you’ve got to invest the time and the effort to build relationships and to understand what people are looking for in leadership, how they’re trying to serve constituents in the districts they serve.

“And so I’ve got a good start on that,” the LaGrange County farmer said. “If something else ever comes up, I’m definitely going to take another look at it. I ran out there to the floor and had a lot of folks say, ‘Hey, we want to help you, because you did a great job.’ ”

The GOP released no tallies in the whip contest – a reported 231 of 233 Republicans voted – and Stutzman said he doesn’t know whether he or Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam finished second to Scalise, who had been considered the favorite.

Republicans also elected the current whip, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, to replace Rep. Eric Cantor as majority leader. Cantor is quitting the post July 31 after his June 10 upset loss in the Virginia primary election, which set up the leadership shuffle.

McCarthy defeated Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador for majority leader.

Stutzman, 37, was the most conservative of the candidates for whip, the person responsible for gauging rank-and-file support for leadership positions on legislation. He was asked whether Scalise, 48, the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee of which Stutzman is a member, is sufficiently conservative for his tastes.

“Absolutely, he is,” Stutzman said. “He is the RSC chairman. I’ve known him well. He’s a good friend. We’ve played on the baseball team together. We were actually out on the baseball field this morning at practice. We were visiting about the race.

“I have no problem at all with Steve Scalise. He’s a solid guy and conservative, and he’s going to do some good things at the leadership table.”

In a news conference broadcast by C-SPAN, Scalise told reporters after the voting, “We built a strong team that was representative of our entire conference.” He said that as RSC chairman the past 1 1/2 years, he worked “to build consensus, to move conservative solutions forward in a way that unites our conference and solves problems facing our country.”

Stutzman was openly supported by some of the more conservative members of the House GOP, including Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Georgia Rep. Tom Graves, who had opposed Scalise for RSC chairman in a 2012 election.

Stutzman’s wife, Christy, accompanied him to the paper-ballot election in a basement room of the Longworth House Office Building, where Stutzman has his office. New York Rep. Tom Reed nominated Stutzman, and the nomination was seconded in brief remarks by Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner and Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski of Stutzman’s next-door 2nd District.

It was believed that Stutzman would have a lot of support from his election class of 2010, the large group that gave Republicans their House majority. But in the days leading up to the election, Stutzman publicly counted about 50 backers, less than half as many as Scalise was claiming. Roskam, 52, was believed to be running in second place.

National Journal reporter Jim Alberta tweeted after the results came in: “Bottom line: Scalise whipping operation was far superior to competition – and that’s not a knock on them. Team Scalise was a machine.”

Stutzman said months ago he might seek the RSC chairmanship after Scalise’s term expires this year – an election that should move considerably ahead on the calendar after Thursday’s shake-up. Asked Thursday afternoon about his interest, Stutzman replied, “I’m not going to say no to anything.”

“I feel very good about where we’re at,” he said about his standing with the caucus. “I had a lot of people, even after the vote was announced, I had a lot of folks tell us we ran a classy campaign. We didn’t go negative on anybody. We talked about ideas and vision and about what the American people are looking for in leadership and how we need to find solutions to the problems that we have.

“I’m very humbled by those who supported our effort,” Stutzman said, “and so many folks came up to me and said, ‘You know what, We had three great candidates to pick from, it was tough to make a choice.’ At the end of the day, that’s what I wanted to accomplish, that everybody had a choice.”