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Boehner Backing Sessions for NRCC Chairman

Updated: 2:14 p.m.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has endorsed Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) for chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee over NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.), who is seeking another term at the head of the committee.

Boehner’s public support of Sessions comes one day after Cole appealed to the House Republican Conference for a second term helming the committee, and the Minority Leader’s support could prove crucial to Sessions’ chances of winning the post in the upcoming leadership elections.

“Tom Cole has guided the NRCC through a difficult time for our party, and I’m sincerely grateful for his service to our team. But I believe having Pete Sessions at the helm of the NRCC in the next cycle will give House Republicans our best shot at rebuilding a majority coalition,” Boehner said in a statement. “Pete has the skills needed to recruit top-tier candidates and give them the support they need to challenge a Democratic Congress that has been bought and paid for by liberal special interests. We need Pete Sessions at the leadership table as the next chairman of the NRCC.”

Sessions, in what amounts to his first official announcement that he is running for NRCC chairman, said in an advance copy of a statement obtained by Roll Call that he is “honored” to have Boehner’s support. Sessions also said he will outline what he would do as NRCC chairman in the coming days.

“While I commend the dedicated efforts of Chairman Tom Cole, the call for new direction at the National Republican Congressional Committee is clear. I stand ready to meet this challenge, and I am running for Chairman of the NRCC to help rebuild the Republican Party and win back our Majority in the House of Representatives,” Sessions said.

Sessions was one of three Members to run for NRCC chairman in 2006, ultimately losing to Cole. Boehner and Cole clashed several times during the election cycle that ended Tuesday, and the Ohio Republican could be moving quickly to back Sessions to ensure he gets the NRCC chairman he wants for the 2010 elections.

Sessions alluded to as much in his two-paragraph statement.

“I am honored to have the support of Leader Boehner in this effort, as a united, aggressive Leadership team is critical to the success of the NRCC,” said Sessions, who won his 7th term on Tuesday.

As of Thursday afternoon, Republicans had lost a net of 19 seats in Tuesday’s elections, with a handful of House races still too close to call.

In a memo Cole sent to the House Republican Conference on Wednesday, he acknowledged that losing nearly 20 seats isn’t good. But he said it’s not bad considering that many leading Congressional prognosticators had predicted as many as 40 losses, not to mention the toxic political atmosphere for Republicans and the fact that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee outspent the NRCC $76.8 million to $24.2 million.

Cole touted his efforts to pay off an $18 million debt and implement structural changes to how the committee operates in the wake of an embezzlement scandal revolving around former NRCC Treasurer Christopher Ward. He also cited an improved fundraising apparatus, noting that his efforts to raise more money online and from small donors bore fruit after such fundraising avenues were neglected by previous NRCC chairmen.

“The last two years have presented the NRCC challenges no one could have anticipated. Yet together, against all odds, we persevered and came through the fire stronger,” Cole wrote in his memo. “I believe the path of reform and rebuilding is never easy, but is one that always brings forth victory. That is why I am running for re-election as NRCC Chairman and ask you to allow me to finish the important progress we’ve made toward rebuilding the Committee and restoring our status as the majority party.”

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