Labrador just released a statement announcing his bid for House majority leader, saying he believes Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary loss on Tuesday shows, “Americans are looking for a change in the status quo.”
The leadership election is scheduled for June 19. Labrador made the announcement a half-day after it appeared McCarthy had the job locked up with no opponents.
Now, a Labrador aide said, the contest is up in the air.
“The old math can be thrown out,” the aide said, without revealing how many lawmakers support Labrador. “It’s a whole new ballgame.”
Now serving as House majority whip, McCarthy has been cultivating close relationships with the rank and file for years and claimed by Thursday to have gathered the backing of more than half the conference.
His only opponent, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, dropped out Thursday night as his became clear he stood little chance of winning.
But the inevitability of McCarthy succeeding Cantor angered the most conservative faction of the House.
They had tried to recruit House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, but he declined to run.
Then they pursued Labrador.
“He got a lot of encouragement from other members,” a source close to the discussions told the Washington Examiner.
Many consider McCarthy to be a politically similar to Cantor, particularly when it comes to immigration reform.
Both Cantor and McCarthy, his protege, have expressed acceptance of legislation that would eventually legalize those who came here illegally, which some conservatives view as a form of amnesty.
Additionally, conservative talk show hosts who boosted Cantor's primary opponent Dave Brat to victory have been railing against McCarthy as another “pro-amnesty” leader.
Labrador, a former immigration lawyer, hardly fits the profile of what many conservatives want, which is someone to oppose any immigration reform that increases immigration, both legal and illegal, which they say will decrease employment and deflate wages.
He opposes immigration reform of any kind in 2014, but said he believes in eventually increasing legal immigration and creating a guest worker program after border security is increased.
But Labrador has said he opposes a pathway to citizenship. This could help him win favor with conservatives who might view him as an imperfect but far more attractive alternative to McCarthy.