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Majority leader candidate Labrador struggles with tea party back home

The Idaho tea partier running to be House majority leader is struggling to reign in the far right movement back home.
Raul Labrador
Rep. Raul Labrador, (R-ID) in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

The Rand Paul-backed tea partier running for House majority leader had a rough weekend, when the GOP convention he was running in Idaho devolved into what a local paper described as a “fiasco.” But that hasn't stopped Rep. Rául Labrador, an Idaho Republican, from moving forward with his campaign to become Eric Cantor's replacement.

Labrador oversaw the convention, which ended with the party unable to agree on a chairman or a platform, as far-right forces and more moderate Republicans warred over the specifics. Still, on Monday, Labrador sent a letter to House Republicans asking for their votes in the race for majority leader, requesting that those who have already decided to vote for House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, "at least pause for a moment and consider me for this role."

The weekend's convention was a blow for Labrador, who is trying to portray himself as a leader capable of uniting those two forces back in Washington. “The message from Tuesday is clear—Americans are looking for a change in the status quo," Labrador said in a statement announcing his candidacy, according to The Huffington Postadding that he aimed to create "a leadership team that can bring the Republican conference together."

"For three weeks I’ve tried to broker a deal to prevent what happened today."'

The two-term Republican is hoping his own generally-respected position among both leadership Republicans and tea party caucus -- he's been endorsed by tea party darling and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul -- will aid in the long-shot bid.

The majority leader job opened up unexpectedly when the sitting majority leader, Virginia Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, lost his primary to hardly-known tea party challenger David Brat. The majority whip, California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, was endorsed by Cantor the next day and has been shoring up party votes ever since.

Labrador entered the race two days later, only after a number of other conservatives declined to run to the right of McCarthy. With the election on Thursday, Labrador doesn't have much time to pull off an upset.

His inability to unify his party back in Idaho won't help his cause, either.

“For three weeks I’ve tried to broker a deal to prevent what happened today,” Labrador told reporters shortly after the Idaho GOP convention adjourned. The Spokesman-Review notes that the GOP holds every statewide office in Idaho, every seat in the congressional delegate and a strong majority of the state Legislature, yet it is deeply divided.

“It was basically the ultra-, ultra-conservative, tea party-libertarian type people basically flexing their muscle in the way the thing was organized,” complained the state Senate assistant majority leader and a Boise Republican, state Sen. Chuck Winder. 

“It’s a real shame that a convention comes to that stage, where there really wasn’t any real floor leadership, there wasn’t any fairness in the process, either in the credentials committee or on the floor. It was all pre-determined. It’s kind of ‘who’s going to have the power,’ rather than working together.”

The race for majority leader will take place on June 19 at 2 p.m. EST in the Longworth House Office Building.