Politics

Doug Collins Enters Race for GOP Conference Vice Chairman

Current vice chairwoman Lynn Jenkins will not seek re-election

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins is running for vice chairman of the House Republican Conference. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins has entered the race for the House Republican Conference vice chairmanship, creating a contest for the No. 5 spot in GOP leadership.

“As a leader who initiates crucial conversations and commits to hard votes, I am equipped to increase the unity within our party and across our nation,” Collins said in a pitch to colleagues.

Texas Rep. Bill Flores, outgoing chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, announced Wednesday that he was running. Collins is also a member of the RSC.

[A Guide to House Leadership, Committee, Caucus Elections

The election for vice chairman and other House GOP leadership posts is next Tuesday. The candidates need only a simple majority of votes cast to win; votes are submitted by secret ballot. Incoming freshmen, who will be in Washington for their orientation, are allowed to vote. 

Current vice chairwoman Lynn Jenkins of Kansas does not plan to seek re-election so she can instead spend more time focusing on her policy interests, her spokesman Jeffrey P. Levicki said.

“Donald Trump’s victory has vaulted two of Congresswoman Jenkins’ biggest legislative priorities, tax reform and repealing and replacing Obamacare, to the front of the legislative line,” he said.

Jenkins, who sits on the Ways and Means Committee that has jurisdiction over those issues, “is deeply grateful to the whole conference for their support over the past two Congresses,” Levicki added.

As of right now, the vice chairman race is a two-way contest between Flores and Collins, but other candidates could still announce plans to run. This is Collin’s first bid for a leadership post, whereas Flores has experience. In addition to serving as RSC chairman, he flirted with the idea of running for speaker after John A. Boehner resigned last year.

The RSC members will play a crucial role in deciding who wins this race, since they make up more than half of the conference. It’s unclear how much of the RSC vote Flores will cultivate as the sitting chairman but he will likely be able to count on the support of the Texas delegation, which is a significant voting bloc in the conference.

Collins, a sophomore who serves on the Judiciary and Rules committees, has tried to exert himself as a strong conservative voice in the conference, championing free market issues and intellectual property rights.

In his note to colleagues, Collins said that Republicans must tell the story of how a limited government can reduce economic and creative limitations that Americans currently face, and explain that the GOP “is the party of compassion, fairness, and freedom.”

Collins accused Democrats of hijacking the meaning of hope by associating it with socialized health care and government benefits and said that Republicans can reclaim the definition and make hope synonymous with opportunity.

The Georgia Republican was also active on the campaign trail this cycle, campaigning for House Republicans in states like Florida, Kansas, Nebraska, and California.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tapped Collins to do a Midwest swing in the final week of the campaign for candidates like Don Bacon, who was elected in Nebraska’s 2nd District, and Rep. Kevin Yoder, who was re-elected in Kansas’s 3rd District.

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