Eric Cantor fallout: Pete Sessions begs off GOP leadership role, leaving Calif.'s Kevin McCarthy

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Update 6:04 p.m. Texas Rep. Pete Sessions dropped out of the race for the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, leaving only California Rep. Kevin McCarthy currently in the running for the position, Roll Call reported, citing a statement from McCarthy. McCarthy is the current Republican majority whip.

Sessions emphasized the need for party unity in his statement. Read the full statement from Sessions below:

"After thoughtful consideration and discussion with my colleagues, I have made the decision to not continue my run for House Majority Leader. Today, it became obvious to me that the measures necessary to run a successful campaign would have created unnecessary and painful division within our party. At this critical time, we must remain unified as a Republican Conference. As always, I stand ready and willing to work with our team to advance the conservative agenda that the American people demand and deserve."

KPCC staff

Previously: It's not over until it's over, but Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy figures he's got the votes to become the next House Majority Leader. The vote's not until next week, but McCarthy's counting on local colleagues to push him over the top.

The contest to fill the vacuum left by the lightning downfall of Rep. Eric Cantor narrowed on Thursday as Rep. Jeb Hensarling said he will not run for Cantor's vacated post as House majority leader.  

McCarthy, the four-term congressman, will face Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, the chairman of the Rules Committee. 

As Whip, it's Kevin McCarthy's job to count votes — now he's counting them for his own ends. And he's asked his GOP compadres from the Central Valley to do a bit of lobbying on his behalf.

McCarthy was well positioned to step up in leadership before Cantor's surprise defeat. But Tulare Congressman Devin Nunes says well positioned doesn't guarantee a win. "Absolutely not," he says, "not until you count all the votes."

Turlock Republican Jeff Denham says he, Nunes and Hanford colleague David Valadao spread out, talking to every GOP colleague with whom they had a good relationship. Now that members have flown home, Denham says he plans to "spend time with my family this weekend." But he admits that the phone may ring from time to time: "I'm sure there will be other members that continue to call me."

Asked whether he would endorse McCarthy in that race, House Speaker John Boehner sidestepped the question, saying, "I can work with whoever gets elected."

Boehner also rebuffed suggestions that Cantor's defeat delivered a message to Republicans about immigration. Though Cantor has been an adamant opponent of a broad overhaul of immigration laws such as the bipartisan bill approved last year by the Senate, his GOP primary challenger David€” Brat accused him of being open to amnesty to immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

"We don't know that is the issue or was the issue in the election," Boehner said.

The Leadership vote is on Thursday. If McCarthy wins, he'll face two more elections in November: one for reelection in his Bakersfield district, the second for leadership in the new session of Congress that begins in January.

Kitty Felde with the Associated Press

This story has been updated.

With contributions by KPCC staff

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