February 28, 2002
LaHood bows out of House GOP whip race
By DORI MEINERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood said Wednesday he is withdrawing from the House Republican whip’s race,
acknowledging he couldn’t garner enough support to win.
"I really felt that I couldn’t win the race," said LaHood, who represents part of Springfield and areas to the north. "I think it’s
better for me to get out and wait for another time and spend my time and energy doing other things around here legislatively."
When LaHood entered the race for the third-highest House leadership position in December, he conceded he was the underdog in the campaign to replace House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas.
He threw his hat in ring at the urging of moderates and promised to bring a softer tone to the GOP leadership. He offered himself as an alternate to the tough partisan reputation earned by Delay, nicknamed "the hammer."
"I’d rather be called the ‘velvet glove,’" LaHood said in December.
By bowing out, LaHood leaves DeLay’s deputy, Roy Blunt of Missouri, unopposed for the position. Blunt wasted no time in
announcing he would seek to replace DeLay after DeLay’s decision to run for retiring House Majority Dick Armey’s post.
LaHood waited several days to consider a run, which gave Blunt time to secure early commitments from many House members.
The whip’s job is to round up votes for the leadership. The position has become increasingly important with the GOP’s slim
majority in the House.
As he sought support from other House Republicans, LaHood said he learned Blunt was held in high regard.
"People like him, and I couldn’t convince enough people that I would be better than him," LaHood said.
Nevertheless, he said he is well-positioned to run for a leadership position in the future.
"The way I’ve conducted myself in the past two to three months ... leaves the door open for me," LaHood said.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who also is from Illinois, didn’t make an endorsement in the leadership race. LaHood, who
considers Hastert a personal friend, said he understood the speaker’s need to stay neutral.
LaHood sought to leverage his experience as former chief of staff to House Minority Leader Bob Michel of Peoria into a
leadership position. LaHood was elected to the House in 1994.
LaHood is known for his knowledge of House procedure and his respect for the House as an institution. The GOP leadership has
called on him to preside over difficult House votes, including President Clinton’s impeachment.
His concern over the increasingly partisan and bitter tone of House debates led him to help establish a bipartisan retreat to
promote civility and improve communications among House members.