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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks at a rally in Phoenix in 2020. (Photo: Gage Skidmore).

Three New Jersey Republicans backing McCarthy for Speaker

Smith, Van Drew and Kean backing McCarthy bid to lead the House

By David Wildstein, December 08 2022 10:39 am

All three Republican votes from New Jersey will go to Kevin McCarthy when the U.S. House of Representatives meets on January 3 to elect a new Speaker.

Reps. Christopher Smith (R-Manchester) and Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis), and Rep.-elect Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) are all backing McCarthy, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.

McCarthy has a complicated path to become speaker.  He needs 218 votes to win the speakership when Republicans gain control of the chamber next month.   With a 222-213 majority, McCarthy can only afford to lose four votes.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona), a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, has announced that he will challenge McCarthy for speaker.  He is one of five House Republicans that have refused to support McCarthy.

In a GOP caucus vote last month, McCarthy beat Biggs, 188-31, with five additional Republicans voting for someone else.

New Jersey’s congressional delegation will increase from two Republicans to three in January after Kean defeated two-term Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes).

Kean has become a strong supporter of McCarthy, who came to New Jersey in July 2021 to help Kean launch his congressional run.

McCarthy also forged a relationship with Van Drew in 2019 when he helped convince the longtime Democratic officeholder to switch parties and become a Republican.

Smith is a longtime ally of McCarthy, backing him for House leadership posts for the last twelve years.  McCarthy endorsed Smith for re-election to his 4th district House seat earlier this years.

If McCarthy is unable to secure 218 votes, the race for speaker would go to a second ballot for the first time since Frederick Gillett (R-Massachusetts) won on the 9th ballot in 1923.

The math for McCarthy could become easier if some Democrats vote present, a move that would lower  the number of Republican votes he needs to win.

The 1859 race for Speaker of the House was won on the 44th ballot by a New Jerseyan, William Pennington, a former governor from the Whig Party who was elected to Congress as a Republican in 1858.  One of two freshman congressmen to become Speaker – the other was Henry Clay – Pennington lost his own House seat in 1860 when Democrat Nehemiah Perry, a former assemblyman and Newark city councilman, ousted him by 400 votes.

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