No matter who wins the number three spot in the House Republican Conference on Thursday, one GOP woman could stand a chance to make history.
While all of the candidates vying for majority whip are male, the top two contenders both have women playing critical roles in their respective leadership campaigns. The leadership races, caused by the sudden primary loss of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) last week, could put one of these women in a good position to be tapped as the winner’s chief deputy whip – a spot no Republican woman has ever held, according to the House historian’s records.
Here are three of the women to watch after the final vote:
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.)
Candidate endorsed for whip: Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.)
In his letter to the Republican Conference, Roskam pledged that his deputy would be from a red state – a fairly simple criteria that Black easily fills.
Elected in 2010, Black’s background as a nurse put her front and center during the GOP efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. She is not only a personal friend of Roskam’s, but is also well respected by both the tea party and the establishment parts of the Republican Caucus. She was one of four Republicans appointed by leadership to the House-Senate Budget Conference last fall. In 2013, she was rated the 14th most conservative by National Journal.
Black’s spokesman said the congresswoman would be “honored to be considered” for the position, but “is focused on helping [Roskam] gain support for majority whip, not who he will appoint to this position.”
Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.)
Candidate endorsed: Roskam
Since leaving her leadership position as the fourth-ranking House Republican in 2009, Granger has kept a fairly low profile in the conference. Instead, she has focused on issues like foreign aid and military spending rather than some of the more hot-button issues within the conference.
However, as a member of the largest delegation in the House, she could be well positioned to reenter the inner circle.
She might not be as conservative as some of the other contenders for the chief deputy whip position, but she is known as a pragmatist and a steady hand with deep policy knowledge.
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.)
Candidate endorsed: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.)
Wagner is the most conservative woman in the House (eighth most conservative House member overall, according to National Journal) who has close ties to both Cantor and Scalise who is seeking to replace him. Rumors swirled last week that Scalise had already offered the chief deputy job to Wagner, causing her office to deny that she was asked or has lobbied for the position, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Wagner’s spokesman told the Post-Dispatch that Scalise and Wagner bonded during her 2012 campaign after the death of Wagner’s father, just weeks before the primary. Scalise, who was already scheduled to campaign for Wagner before her father’s death, came to her district and “held the fort down” while Wagner grieved.
Wagner’s roots in the Republican Party go well beyond the House. She is a former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee and lost a bid to lead the RNC to current Chairman Reince Preibus in 2011. From 2005 until 2009 she served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to Luxembourg.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) is also running for majority whip. So far, only one woman – fellow Indiana Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski – is publically supporting him, according to a list maintained by The Hill. Given that Walorski is from the same state as Stutzman, it is unlikely she would be his choice for his deputy whip.