As rivals drop out, McCarthy lone candidate for majority leader

Updated June 12, 9:00 p.m. EDT | Rep. Pete Sessions dropped out of the race for majority leader Thursday evening, leaving Rep. Kevin McCarthy as the lone remaining candidate for the second most powerful post in the House of Representatives.

“Today, it became obvious to me that the measures necessary to run a successful campaign would have created unnecessary and painful division within our party,” Sessions said in a statement released to the NewsHour. “At this critical time, we must remain unified as a Republican Conference. As always, I stand ready and willing to work with our team to advance the conservative agenda that the American people demand and deserve.”

House Republicans will vote Thursday, June 19 to select a new majority leader.

June 12, 6:56 p.m. EDT | A day after Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced he’d step down from his leadership post, there’s a bit of a clearer picture of who is looking to replace him in next week’s leadership election.

Current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California is at the moment the favorite to fill Cantor’s spot, in part because a potential rival exited the race Thursday. Jeb Hensarling of Texas announced he wasn’t running.

“I have come to the conclusion that this is not the right office at the right time for me and my family,” he said in a statement. Hensarling declined to answer additional questions from the NewsHour about his decision.

That now leaves another Texan, Pete Sessions, as McCarthy’s main opponent. GOP members of the Texas delegation met for lunch Thursday at the Capitol, where Sessions and and company discussed the leadership race.

If early media coverage is any indication, Sessions has his work cut out for him. And with members already heading home for the weekend, and the House not in session Monday, there aren’t many working days left until the leadership elections a week from Thursday. Although surely campaigning via text and phone call will continue throughout the weekend.

House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday declined to publicly endorse anyone in the race. But 2012 vice-presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., threw his support to McCarthy with Hensarling officially out.

Fellow Texan and freshman Republican Randy Weber spoke to reporters after that lunch meeting to make the case for the Sessions camp.

Sessions ran the National Republican Campaign Committee, which is charged with electing Republicans to the House, in the past two campaign cycles. Weber was elected in 2012, and Republicans regained control of the House in 2010.

“Pete was demonstrably the leader in the NRCC when we came in,” Weber said. “Will that work to his advantage? I think it does.”

But, he conceded McCarthy has an advantage because he is already the whip. And the whip – is in charge of counting votes.

“Does he have an advantage being the whip?” Weber asked. “Yeah, that definitely gives him an advantage. He has everybody’s contact numbers. Kevin has emails, private emails, private cell phones. From that standpoint he might have a bit more communication information than the chairman does.”

And while Sessions and McCarthy battle for votes to become the next majority leader, a post second in seniority only to the Speaker of the House, there is also a concurrent campaign to replace McCarthy at whip. That is, presuming he beats Sessions.

The NewsHour confirmed that Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who was swept in with the 2010 tea party wave, added his name to the race for whip. He will face off against Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Illinois, a McCarthy ally, as well as Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee.

Support PBS NewsHour: