House GOP Caucus Elections Get Weird
This is an inside-baseball post. If you are interested in such things, read further for what is shaping up to be a very weird set of circumstances. Very weird indeed.
We here at Peach Pundit have discussed the vacated House Majority Whip’s race on several occasions. The vacancy was created when Rep Trey Kelly decided to step down and then subsequently Rep Barry Fleming and current caucus chair Rep Matt Hatchett decided to run to fill that slot.
Rep Hatchett’s decision to run for Whip created a vacancy for chairman of the caucus. Or so that is how the caucus rules read. The exact wording can be found in paragraph 4 of the rules for elections of caucus officers, which states, “In the event that a member is currently holding a caucus leadership position and decides to run for a vacant leadership position, either under these circumstances (being elected Pro-Tem or Speaker) or under paragraph 20 above (a general vacancy), they must resign from their caucus leadership position to run and a new election shall be held for that position.” The parenthesis are mine to clarify the meaning of that sentence.
It appears from the way the rules are worded that Rep Hatchett is not the current chairman of the caucus because he has in fact decided to run for Whip.
Several Republican House Members have reached out to let us know that there are three candidates that have declared that they are running to replace Rep Hatchett as Caucus Chair; Bonnie Rich, Kasey Carpenter, and Dominic Lariccia.
The caucus is meeting this coming weekend for their bi-annual retreat in Jekyll Island when the caucus elections were to take place. However, we got word today that the election to replace Chairman Hatchett has been postponed indefinitely. Weird. But the race to replace the Whip is still on. Weirder still.
Adding to the weirdness is that Rep Rich currently serves as the chair of the committee that will be redrawing the lines for House members later this year. We are told that in an email to the caucus, Rep Rich wrote that if elected she would serve out her responsibilities as chair of that committee before assuming the role of caucus chair.
Now we here at Peach Pundit are not in the habit of questioning people’s character, but it occurs to me, at least, that this creates a bit of a conflict that perhaps Rep Rich hasn’t clearly thought out. While we are sure she would make a fine chair of the caucus, the average rank and file member must now navigate how to not anger the person who will have the greatest influence over whether they are drawn into a district with multiple current House Members in it just in time for the next election. That is one helluva weapon.
But back to that postponed election for caucus chair; delaying it could signal that the need for it is moot. Further, Leadership have not clearly articulated their reasons why a postponement is necessary to rank and file members which is leading to a great deal of wild speculation. Is Rep Hatchett getting cold feet, in which a retreat to his previous leadership position would be appealing? Would he still be challenged for the spot by the three current contenders if he decides to run again for chair?
Caucus rules allow for 1/3rd of the caucus to ask for a new election. The process takes a little bit of time, but it is possible that if those 1/3rd can be found all in the same spot this weekend, they could potentially force the issue if they were so inclined. But maybe that’s too weird.
One last thing about this strange set of circumstances; when those at the top engage in picking sides in elections like these, it sends a message that some people within the caucus are on the outs even if they are not. It can lead to some feeling like they are less than others. This is the very seed of discontent that will grow like a dandelion through concrete, ultimately cracking it. It may be best to stay out of it altogether and let the members have their say unfettered.