Donald Trump scares off challengers to Elise Stefanik’s rise to GOP leadership


The backing of former President Donald Trump helped keep the field clear of challengers to Rep. Elise Stefanik’s bid to become the next House Republican Conference chair after fellow GOP members ousted Rep. Liz Cheney on Wednesday.

The conferences’ staunchest conservatives, who would be the most likely candidates to challenge the more moderate Ms. Stefanik, kept on the sidelines for fear of crossing Mr. Trump and jeopardizing their political careers.

“I don’t think there will be anybody that wants to risk a future chairmanship or a future role in the party by taking on Elise Stefanik, which I think is terribly unfortunate,” said Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican and member of the far-right Freedom Caucus.

In addition to Mr. Trump, Ms. Stefanic enjoys the support of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise.

The caucus is expected to vote Friday on Ms. Cheney’s successor to the No. 3 leadership spot in the conference.

Some have questioned the conservative credential of Ms. Stefanik, who represents an upstate New York district. Critics note her vote against the 2017 tax cuts.

So far, however, no challengers have stepped forward.

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas was the first to raise the concerns about Ms. Stefanik in a letter Tuesday to fellow Republican members.

“With all due respect to my friend, Elise Stefanik, let us contemplate the message Republican leadership is about to send by rushing to coronate a spokesperson whose voting record embodies much of what led to the 2018 ass-kicking we received by Democrats,” Mr. Roy wrote.

Mr. Roy suggested the party could be better off leaving the position vacant.

Mr. Buck echoed the concern.

“I think she is a liberal,” said Mr. Buck, adding that he does not support her for the leadership job.

Ms. Stefanik plans to meet with the Freedom Caucus later Wednesday.

“I think what she’s doing is she’s making the rounds in a more intimate setting where people can ask questions,” Mr. Buck said.

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