Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, has withdrawn from being considered as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, according to media reports Thursday.
McCarthy, who represents part of Lancaster and the Antelope Valley, met with Republican colleagues in the morning to tell them of his decision with the reason that he was not the right candidate for the Speaker position at this time.
In a prepared statement, McCarthy said that it was clear the Republican conference was “deeply divided” and needs to unite behind one leader.
“I have always put this conference ahead of myself,” McCarthy said in the statement. “Therefore I am withdrawing my candidacy for Speaker of the House. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to help move our conference’s agenda and our country forward.”
The New York Times reported that factoring into McCarthy’s decision was backlash over comments he made about how the House committee investigating Benghazi had the political aim of damaging Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
As the House majority leader for more than a year, McCarthy had initially been seen as a frontrunner to replace Rep. John Boehner as Speaker following the announcement of his resignation from that position last month.
In the weeks since, two challengers emerged: Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, who has the backing of hardline House conservatives, according to media reports. With that conservative bloc supporting another candidate it was unclear whether McCarthy could reach the 218 votes needed for election, the New York Times reported.
No date has been set for the Speaker election.
McCarthy was elected to the majority leader position in June of last year. He replaced Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor who was defeated for re-election to the House in that month’s primary.
McCarthy was first elected to the House in 2006. His district includes parts of Lancaster, the communities of Rosamond, Mojave and Tehachapi, and Edwards Air Force Base.