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Pryce Intends to Remain as Chair

Hoping to stamp out the perception that she planned to step down from her leadership post at the end of this Congress, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) on Tuesday made her strongest assertion yet that she is running for re-election to the position.

Pryce sent a letter to her fellow Republicans on Tuesday evening to thank them for their contributions to the party’s message effort and to say, “I am also writing to inform you that I am running for a third term as Chair of the House Republican Conference. I am proud of what our team has accomplished so far, and am looking forward to continuing to work for you and the entire Conference.”

Pryce’s letter comes three months after she made comments to the Columbus Dispatch suggesting that she might be more interested in running for the Financial Services or Rules Committee chairmanships rather than the Conference job.

That story, and a wider belief among many GOP Members that Pryce was most interested in the Financial Services gavel, prompted three GOP lawmakers — Reps. John Doolittle (Calif.), Jack Kingston (Ga.) and Mike Rogers (Mich.) — to launch serious campaigns to replace her.

But Pryce sought to make clear Tuesday that she is only focused on keeping the Conference chairmanship.

“That is the only job I am running for,” Pryce said in a brief interview. “It’s very important that I put this speculation to bed.”

At the same time, Pryce did not completely rule out a bid for Financial Services at some point in the future. But she did seem to indicate that under the present circumstances she would not run for that post.

Current Financial Services Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) will be term-limited out of the position at the end of the 109th Congress, and Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) has long expressed an interest in succeeding him. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) is also seen by some Republicans as a worthy candidate, as is current Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), making it unclear whether Pryce could win the gavel, even if she put all her efforts into it.

While Doolittle, Kingston and Rogers had all begun quietly working to secure support to run for the Conference post, all three men indicated Tuesday that they welcomed Pryce’s decision.

“I’m glad she’s made her decision to stay as Conference chair,” Rogers said. “Now I’m going to continue to focus on making sure we’re a majority Conference.”

Kingston, meanwhile, said, “I’ve told [Pryce] all along that my candidacy was presuming a vacancy. I think it’s a healthy thing that she’s staying.”

As for whether Pryce’s letter would halt all campaigning, Kingston said, “I think we’re all in a holding pattern, probably.”

Kingston and Doolittle currently serve as Conference Secretary and Vice Chairman, respectively, and Pryce’s decision presumably means that they will run for re-election to their own posts.

“The Congressman has always said he will not run against her,” said Doolittle spokeswoman Laura Blackann. “His run for Conference chair is contingent upon her stepping down, so if Chairwoman Pryce is going to run again for Conference chair then he will not run.”

In addition to informing her colleagues of her intention to stay in her post, Pryce also used Tuesday’s letter to remind them that the Conference has a new staff lineup, led by Chief of Staff Andrew Shore, Policy Director Shalla Ross and Communications Director Sean Spicer.

Pryce added that the Conference “is expanding its Web site and electronic capabilities,” and that Members will now receive “The Drum Beat,” a colorful new weekly pamphlet featuring the latest legislative calendar, poll results and other updates.

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