At a breakfast fundraiser in Fredericksburg, Virginia’s Republican Representative from the First District offered his support for Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz to be the next Speaker of the House. Chaffetz was in attendance as the headliner for the event.
“Jason is the exact type of person we need in Congress as a leader. I look forward to him being successful in his run for Speaker,” said Wittman to significant applause from the group composed largely of GOP activists and local business leaders. Chaffetz welcomed the support. “We need a Speaker who speaks,” Chaffetz remarked. “And we want leaders who do what they say they’re going to do.”
Wittman’s announcement comes just two days ahead of the vote among House Republicans to choose their next candidate for Speaker. Current House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) last week announced his intention to retire at the end of this month.
Chaffetz has positioned himself as a figure who can unite the factions among House Republicans, capitalizing on his reputation for being fair and level-headed, with a conscientious style of running the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Most Congressional sources indicate that McCarthy is likely to win the Thursday vote of the Republican Conference, though Chaffetz claims to be gaining on McCarthy, in part because of McCarthy’s fumbling of a question about what Republicans in the House have accomplished recently. The California Republican said in his response that the House investigation into the Benghazi scandal had been launched as a means of damaging Hillary Clinton–a perception that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and other Republicans leading the investigation have assiduously guarded against.
However, even if McCarthy wins Thursday’s vote, the key test will come on October 29th, when the election of the next Speaker will come before the full House. A majority of 218 votes is needed to ensure victory on the first ballot, and Chaffetz claims that at least 50 conservatives—more than needed to deny McCarthy a majority—will refuse to vote for McCarthy. This could force a reconsideration that could benefit Chaffetz (or the long-shot candidate for Speaker, Florida Rep. Daniel Webster). Or, it could prompt a deal with Democrats, a number of whom could “take a walk” for the Speaker vote to ensure pro-McCarthy Republicans constitute an absolute majority.
According to numerous sources in Washington and in the First District, the former House of Delegates member is considering a run to return to Richmond in 2017 as Governor. A spokesman for Wittman declined to comment. [NB: See update below]
UPDATE: The Wittman campaign provided the following statement to The Bull Elephant regarding the possibility of the Congressman running for Governor in 2017:
Rep. Wittman thinks highly of both Senator Obenshain and Mr. Gillespie and has joined them on the campaign trail in the past. Making sure Virginia’s next governor is a Republican is one of his top priorities.
Rep. Wittman is humbled to have been approached by a number of folks about considering running for governor. His focus and priority now is on 2016 and representing his constituents in Congress, as well as supporting our Republican candidates in the upcoming fall elections here in Virginia.