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House GOP Leader is challenged by Lungren

A California Republican is challenging House GOP Leader John Boehner for his post after the party lost at least 20 seats in last week's elections.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A conservative lawmaker challenged House GOP Leader John Boehner for his job Friday after Republicans lost at least 20 seats in last week's elections.

In entering the race, California Rep. Dan Lungren said Republicans in the House can't go back to business as usual by rubber-stamping Boehner for another two-year term as leader. Lungren says next week's election for leader will say volumes about how House Republicans are reacting to the American people's verdict on Election Day.

"The selection of our leadership will reflect the initial reaction of House Republicans to the recent verdict of the American people," Lungren said. "It is neither in the interest of our party or the advancement of our conservative principles to simply affirm the status quo by acclamation in light of what happened on Nov. 4th."

Lungren has served 14 years in the House over two stretches, including both of Ronald Reagan's terms in the White House. He's been a reliable conservative vote on most issues, though unlike many conservatives, he voted for last month's $700 billion financial industry bailout bill.

Boehner remains a big favorite to hold onto his job, even though the second- and third-ranking members of the current GOP leadership team have stepped aside to make way for conservative challengers.

In fact, Lungren suggested in a letter to his GOP colleagues that the reason for his candidacy is to force debate about the future of the party during a closed door meeting next week in which Republicans will choose their leaders. The letter didn't make any case as to why he would be an improvement over Boehner.

Boehner is the only major GOP leader in the House likely to survive a shake-up in which GOP Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri and Conference Chairman Adam Putnam of Florida have already stepped aside. Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor is unopposed to replace Blunt as the No. 2 House Republican, while Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, a Christian conservative, is poised to replace Putnam.

At the same time, Rep. Tom Cole, who runs the House GOP's campaign arm, is facing a challenge by Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas.

In reaction, Boehner said that "Dan Lungren is a respected member of our conference and a man deeply committed to the principles that have defined our party since the beginning."