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Utah Republican wins crowded race to succeed Johnson as GOP vice chair

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House Republicans have elected a new member to their leadership team: Rep. Blake Moore.

The Utah Republican defeated six other candidates vying for the role of GOP conference vice chair on Wednesday. The position was newly open after Speaker Mike Johnson leapfrogged from the No. 7 conference spot to take the gavel late last month.

Moore, who some of his colleagues describe as a human golden retriever, defeated Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas) in the fourth and final ballot for the position, with other candidates eliminated or dropping out in earlier rounds. It was a blow to Texas Republicans, a powerful bloc in the House GOP, who want a seat at the leadership table.

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the GOP conference chair who oversees the party’s messaging, announced Moore’s win after the voting concluded, telling reporters she is “excited” to work with him.

Moore said he plans to use the role to emphasize that “a conservative message is a positive optimistic message.” He added that a “key part about this role is we need to make sure we empower every single member.”

The Utah Republican was put on the spot during his victory lap, as reporters asked him to respond to the message voters sent about abortion during the Tuesday elections. He only responded that the party has “maintained a consistent message across the board.”

Republicans were surprised by the crowded race for the No. 7 position, which is mainly known for overseeing members’ one-minute floor speeches. Some theorized that Johnson’s quick rise helped make the role more popular.

Other contestants included Reps. Mark Alford (Mo.), Brian Mast (Fla.), Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.), Michelle Fischbach (Minn.), and Mike Collins (Ga.). Collins, who became well-known for posting memes during the speakership race, was the first member forced to drop from the ballot after receiving the least number of votes.