In a hotly contested battle over the direction of the Republican Study Committee, Texas Republican Bill Flores beat out his more conservative rivals, South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney and Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, to become the new RSC chairman.
While Mulvaney ran on reasserting a conservative direction at the RSC and Gohmert ran on asserting an entirely new, dramatically more conservative vision, Flores ran as someone who could work with leadership.
“I campaigned on being a collaborative leader,” Flores told reporters after he won.
“By trying to advance the perfect conservative solution, nobody wins,” he said. While Flores’ victory can also be seen as a victory for GOP leadership, he denied reports that leadership was twisting arms to secure votes for him. He noted that only two people in leadership even had a vote in the RSC election, and he said if anyone in leadership was helping him out, he didn’t know about it.
“I didn’t say that I was going to be a shill for ’em,” he said. “I think the comments about me being a shill for leadership are beyond the pale.”
Flores said he would be pushy, and that he would have disagreements with Republican leadership. “But those disagreements are going to be between them and me. They’re not going to be for public consumption,” he said.
In the end, his middle-of-the-road vision for the RSC chairmanship won out. In fact, despite the three-way race, he was just one vote short of securing a majority on the first ballot, and he took almost all of Gohmert’s votes on the second ballot, a head-to-head contest with Mulvaney.
On the first ballot, Flores secured 71 votes, Mulvaney 55, and Gohmert 16. On the second ballot, with Gohmert dropping off, Flores beat Mulvaney 84 to 57.
Notably, there was one less vote on the second ballot, and that one member who didn’t vote may have been Gohmert.
“Somebody told me that Louie left,” one member said. “So I’m not sure that Louie even voted in the second round at all.”
Gohmert’s office said they could not confirm whether the congressman stuck around or left, but not throwing his support behind a fellow Texas Republican, in a delegation that perhaps values solidarity more than any other, is significant.
During the campaign, Gohmert voiced significant frustration with the direction of the RSC. He told CQ Roll Call in a statement Monday that it was his “fervent desire” to see the RSC take a stand like never before, and that he knew he was the right person to lead that “ardent charge.”
The RSC election had already split Texas Republicans. While Sam Johnson, one of the founders of the RSC, nominated Flores during the closed-door election on Tuesday, Joe L. Barton, the dean of the Texas delegation, was one of three members to nominate Gohmert.
Still, most Texas members eventually coalesced behind Flores on the final ballot. According to Johnson, “We needed that.
“It started with Texas,” Johnson said of the RSC, “and it needs to keep going with Texas.”
As for whether this election might turn off a number of Republicans who already believe RSC is too large and too connected to leadership, Flores seemed to dismiss those thoughts. He said he hoped to have RSC membership numbers in the 114th Congress surpass 180, and he thought much of the bluster about RSC being too big or too moderate would dissipate as memories of the bitter election faded.
“People are either committed to the RSC or they’re not,” he said.
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