Congressman Jim Jordan announced Thursday he intends to run for U.S. House of Representatives speaker in 2019 should Republicans retain the federal legislature’s lower chamber.
“Should the American people entrust us with the majority again in the 116th Congress, I plan to run for speaker of the House to bring real change to the House of Representatives,” Jordan, R-Urbana, told this newspaper.
“President Trump has taken bold action on behalf of the American people,” he said. “Congress has not held up its end of the deal, but we can change that. It’s time to do what we said.”
Jordan, 54, is a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which has roughly 30 members among the chamber’s current 236 Republicans.
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Jordan’s entry is problematic for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is also expected to seek the post and has already won several key endorsements.
Incumbent Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who is retiring in January, said he would not support Jordan and is instead backing McCarthy. McCarthy’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The No. 3 GOP leader, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who is close to many conservatives, also is seen as potential contender.
McCarthy failed in his previous attempt three years ago to become speaker because many in the Freedom Caucus questioned whether he was conservative enough. Many caucus members are likely to support Jordan, but even so, the likelihood is slim that he will gain broad support from Republicans, many of whom are frustrated by the House Freedom Caucus’ demands.
Speculation that Jordan would announce himself as a candidate has swirled since Ryan’s announcement he would retire. In March, more than 100 Tea Party leaders sent an open letter to Jordan urging him to immediately declare himself a candidate for speaker.
“You must take the lead,” read the letter, signed by Tea Party and ultra-conservative leaders including Ed Meese, who was attorney general for President Reagan, Jenny Beth Martin, the chairman of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund and Eunie Smith, president of the Eagle Forum, among others.
Jordan’s announcement came a day after he called for the impeachment of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who supervises the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Conservatives have threatened to impeach Rosenstein over how he has responded to demands for documents, complaints the Justice Department rejected. Democrats have shunned the impeachment articles as a political stunt.
“Protecting the Mueller probe should be a bipartisan effort,” said David Pepper, Ohio Democratic Party chairman, in a statement. “Jim Jordan’s impeachment resolution should be condemned by Republicans and Democrats alike for what it is — a dirty political hit job designed to distract from Jim’s personal issues, pander to the president and campaign for speaker of the House.”
Jordan’s decision to seek the speakership follows allegations from at least five former wrestlers who have accused him of failing to report sexual misconduct when he served as an Ohio State University assistant wrestling coach from 1986 to 1994. Jordan was interviewed recently by lawyers investigating the allegations that a now-dead team doctor sexually abused male athletes. Jordan has denied the allegations, which he said are politically motivated.
Jordan’s 4th District opponent, Democrat Janet Garrett, said, “One thing is abundantly clear: Washington is broken, and people think their representatives are totally disconnected from their everyday challenges.”
“The voters will have to decide whether Jim Jordan is part of the problem or part of the solution,” she said. “For my part, I’m going to stand up to attacks on women’s health care, fight for workers’ rights, and help families afford the health care they need while reaching across the aisle to bring people together and solve our problems.”
Jordan’s quest to become speaker would be irrelevant if Republicans fail to keep the House this fall, something seen as possible by political prognosticators. Political analysts at the University of Virginia Center for Politics forecast this week that Democrats are “now a little better than 50-50 to win the House.”
The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times contributed reporting.