Reps. John Shadegg and Jeff Flake won, but their party lost. Now they hope to spend the next two years leading the GOP back to its successful roots.
Neither man has ever served in the U.S. House’s minority party, but following the Democrats’ surge in Tuesday’s voting they’re about to see how the other half lived.
“It’s unfortunate that it took a defeat like this for us to realize that we badly needed a course correction, but that’s where we find ourselves,” said Flake, winner of a fourth congressional term.
Shadegg, Arizona’s senior congressman, is aggressively pursuing a role in redefining the Republican Party. Not long after winning a seventh term, Shadegg announced his candidacy for the second-highest position in the GOP’s House leadership — minority whip.
Shadegg will be running against the current majority whip, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri.
“I have no doubt that we can reclaim our rightful place as the governing party of reform and individual empowerment,” Shadegg said. “But we must begin with a renewed vision.”
Political experts had mixed views on Shadegg’s decision.
Patrick Kenney, chairman of Arizona State University’s political science department, noted if Shadegg is successful, he puts himself in a prime position to move even higher. The prestige, Kenney said, would help Shadegg in a run for governor or senator. And if the GOP happens to win back the House in the next election cycle, Shadegg could move from minority whip to majority leader.
But Kenney’s peer at the University of Arizona believes House Republicans — not a group to embrace bipartisanship — soon may reap what they have sown.
“I’d be very surprised if the majority Democrats consult much with the minority Republicans in the next term,” said Bill Dixon, head of the university’s political science department. And that would leave Shadegg as the secondin-command of powerless legislators.
Shadegg’s candidacy was part of just one battle brewing on the Republican side of the House. Current Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois told fellow lawmakers on Wednesday he won’t run for minority leader, and his decision is touching off a scramble for the position.
Both Shadegg and Flake are in agreement where the Republican Party went wrong: The loss of principles that swept the GOP into Congress 12 years ago. Limited government, fiscal responsibility, avoiding the temptation to feed at the public trough – all cast aside, they said, in a destructive pursuit of power.
“(Tuesday) night’s election was NOT a revolution, nor was it an endorsement of a true or real Democrat alternative,” Shadegg wrote in announcing his candidacy for whip. “It was a rebuke of the way Washington has conducted itself as of late.”