Everything You Wanted to Know about the Speaker of the House Candidates, and More



House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio leaves a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. In a stunning move, Boehner informed fellow Republicans on Friday that he would resign from Congress at the end of October, stepping aside in the face of hardline conservative opposition that threatened an institutional crisis. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Jeffrey Greenberg

With John Boehner’s (R-OH) September 25th announcement that he would resign from his position as Speaker of the House and leave Congress by the end of this month, a new political race has rapidly taken a share of the media frenzy away from the 2016 election. The announcement surprised the nation and shocked Boehner’s fellow congressmen. And, since his speech, various media outlets have subjected the nation to a torrent of possible candidates, political names past and present, rising stars and aged veterans, some more legitimate than others. For the first time in many years, the media has taken to pointing out that, indeed, the Speaker of the House does not need to be a member of Congress. So we are left, in the coming weeks, to watch as a political rogue’s gallery jockeys for positioning in the congressional house of cards. Here, I wanted to take a more general, and perhaps more lighthearted, approach to the race. Here’s an overview of the candidates most likely to have their names mentioned in late October, and who one day may lead the people’s house.

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

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Leadership Position: House Majority Leader

Hometown: Bakersfield, California (home to perhaps the largest group of off-road vehicle enthusiasts in the country).

Alma Mater: Cal State Bakersfield (U.S. News and World Report ranks this school 83rd, Regional Universities, West)

Current Legislation: The SPACE Act of 2015 stands for “Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship.” It shows McCarthy’s commitment to the future of space travel as well as his commitment to cumbersome acronyms.

Best quote: “I don’t live in DC. I keep an air mattress in my office.”

Likelihood of becoming Speaker three weeks ago: High

Likelihood of becoming Speaker this week: 0%


Daniel Webster (R-FL)

Leadership Position: 14th and 19th United States Secretary of State None

Winner: Most likely to be mistaken for a Whig politician from the 1800s

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Hometown: Charleston, West Virginia is home of the West Virginia Power, the best single A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates within the confines of Charleston, West Virginia.

Current Legislation: The THRIFT Act of 2015 stands for “To Help Reduce Inefficient Federal Tendencies Act” which is even more of a stretch than the SPACE Act and makes less grammatical sense.

Key Endorsement: House Freedom Caucus, a group of some 40 Tea Party Republicans who were partly responsible for pushing John Boehner out of office. Webster is definitely the conservative favorite in the race, and we can look forward to seeing his backers make some ruckus on the House floor come Halloween weekend.

Past Achievements: Webster prides himself on his tenure as Speaker of the Florida House, in which he attempted to streamline the legislative process. According to the Wall Street Journal, his tenure ended in typical Florida fashion: with an orange juice toast.


Paul Ryan (R-WI)

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Leadership Position: Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, 2012 Candidate for Vice President of the United States

Fun FactThis

Hometown: Janesville, Wisconsin is a small union town that voted 62% for Obama/Biden in 2012.

Landmark Legislation: The 2012 and 2013 Republican budget proposals were both spearheaded by Ryan and included major changes to entitlement spending. The actual names of these bills were The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise and The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal. Like Obamacare, the Ryan Budget is a lot easier to say.

Best extended metaphor: “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into complacency and dependence.”

Likelihood of becoming speaker: Ryan recently said he was open to the job, and his chances are rising every day, but the Freedom Caucus, and Webster, could stand in his way.

Defining political clip: His reference to fading Obama posters on the wall at the 2012 Republican National Convention.


Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) UPDATE: Rep. Chaffetz dropped out of the race Tuesday night.

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Leadership Position: Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Hometown: Los Gatos, California means “The Cats” in English, which may have contributed to his moving to Utah

First political campaign: Chaffetz worked on the Presidential Campaign of Michael Dukakis (D-MA) in 1988 while a student at BYU. Sort that one out.

Notable Political Event: As Chairman, Chaffetz has overseen congressional inquiries into Planned Parenthood and the IRS. Here’s a cool clip of Chaffetz questioning the Treasury Inspector General’s office (cool may be relative).

Quote: “Obstruction of Congress in our work is a crime.”


Bill Flores (R-TX)

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Leadership Position: Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a Caucus of conservative Republicans that controls 172 seats in the House. The RSC is focused largely on fiscal and social conservatism.

Born: The Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, operates the Minuteman ICBM, the USA’s primary land-based nuclear weapon. Check this out.

Legislation: Flores, a retired oil executive, introduced a bill that would force the federal government to defer to states on issues regarding hydraulic fracturing.

Caveat to running: Flores said he will only run if Paul Ryan doesn’t run. In fantasy sports, we call this a handcuff. Just like it might be a good idea to have Thomas Rawls on the bench in case Marshawn Lynch gets injured, keep Flores in the back of your mind as a sleeper pick.

Extracurriculars: Serves on the Board of the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M University and on the Board of Trustees of Houston Baptist University, his two alma maters.


Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

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Leadership Position: House Minority Leader. Like Napoleon on the isle of Elba, Nancy Pelosi seeks to return from exile to reclaim the position she held until Republicans took the House in 2010. Seeing as how Republicans control even more seats than they did when she became Minority Leader, this seems highly unlikely.

District: San Francisco, the cultural capital of the America’s Left Coast.

While Speaker: Enacted the Democrats’ “100 hour plan,” which promised to meet all of the new Congress’ goals in the first 100 hours after taking office. Democrats were quick to point out that they meant 100 legislative hours, not real hours. Sort of like when you order something online on a Friday, and then Saturday and Sunday don’t count as shipping days, and then of course Monday just happens to be a Federal Holiday, so your package takes like a week and a half. I’m not bitter.

Likelihood of becoming speaker: Low, whether the election is in the next 100 hours or not.

Quote: On Obamacare, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it…


Bonus: Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

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Leadership Position: Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. Gingrich, when asked on the radio if he would run, said he was “very prepared,” but has since said he has “no plans” to return to the Speakership.

Legislative Highlight: The Contract with America, which detailed precise, conservative principles that the new Republican majority would accomplish in its first 100 days.

Wants a moon colony: Yes

Quote: “The most important social welfare program in America is a job.”

Required reading: You have two options here. You can either read Gingrich’s Ph.D. dissertation in European History, entitled “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945-1960,” or you can read his series of alternate history novels dealing with World War II and the Civil War. My personal recommendation? 1945. You’ll love it.

So, there you have it. This list is really just a snapshot, and the number of candidates could increase dramatically if Ryan doesn’t run. Nevertheless, let this be a guide, at least for now, to keep you up to date on the most important race for the third highest office in the United States.


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