Kevin McCarthy is on a mission to settle scores with the fellow Republicans who played a role in ending his congressional career. Following his abrupt removal from the speakership after a 16-year pursuit, the California Republican is actively working to remove the eight GOP lawmakers who aligned with Democrats to oust him.
One of McCarthy’s top allies, Brian O. Walsh, is leading an effort to identify and recruit primary challengers to contest against the members known as the “Gaetz Eight,” including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and seven others who supported Gaetz’s push to remove McCarthy.
This revenge campaign aims to leverage McCarthy’s significant donor network to support Republican primary candidates capable of posing a credible threat to these eight lawmakers.
The McCarthy camp has identified three members of the Gaetz Eight as particularly vulnerable in primaries: Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Bob Good (R-Va.), and Eli Crane (R-Ariz.). While Mace and Good already face strong challengers, Crane lacks a compelling prospective candidate to oppose him.
Despite McCarthy’s departure from office in October, his appetite for payback remains strong, illustrating the ongoing power struggle within the House GOP between hardline conservatives and more establishment figures.
Walsh, acting with McCarthy’s approval, is leading the campaign. Although McCarthy is not directly involved in the day-to-day operations, he stays informed about the progress, along with key donors.
The McCarthy revenge effort might face challenges this cycle. Some members of the Gaetz Eight have reported recruitment attempts by McCarthy associates, suggesting that potential primary foes may not be entirely enthusiastic about challenging the incumbents.
The focus of McCarthy’s retaliation appears particularly intense in South Carolina, where Mace, who unexpectedly voted against McCarthy, is considered a ripe target.
Walsh has been actively interviewing candidates interested in challenging Mace, with Catherine Templeton emerging as a strong contender. Templeton, a former candidate for South Carolina governor, is expected to launch her bid soon, with McCarthy’s allies expressing interest in supporting her.
While McCarthy openly acknowledges his intent to involve himself in primaries, some GOP candidates may be hesitant to align with him, given his public downfall. Mace has accused McCarthy of recruiting her challenger to be “his personal puppet,” emphasizing the potential challenges of being associated with the former speaker.
The revenge campaign extends to Virginia, where McCarthy is eyeing a potential strike against Good, the House Freedom Caucus chair. Good already faces a primary opponent in state Sen. John McGuire, and McCarthy has expressed interest in the race.
In Arizona, efforts are underway to find challengers for Crane, who holds a particularly frustrating position in the eyes of McCarthy’s allies. As the only first-term participant in the ouster push, Crane is aware of recruitment efforts to unseat him, suspecting McCarthy’s involvement based on “common sense.”
Recruitment has been slower outside of South Carolina, Virginia, and Arizona, despite McCarthy’s access to substantial resources and donors. The House GOP power struggle continues, with McCarthy and his supporters determined to exert influence even from outside of office.