Jun 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Graves' threats to run against colleagues roil GOP

UNITED STATES - APRIL 10: Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., arrives for a House Republican Conference meeti

Rep. Garret Graves arrives for a House Republican Conference meeting on Apri 10. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) — once one of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy's top lieutenants — is increasingly persona non grata in the GOP for threatening to challenge other Louisiana Republicans in November.

Why it matters: Graves is the latest McCarthy confidante to lose influence or retire after McCarthy's ouster last October.

  • Frustrations with Graves are mounting among members of the Louisiana delegation — which includes Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise — over Graves' threats to take on his incumbent colleagues.
  • The tension stems in part from a court-ordered redrawing of the state's House districts. Graves' Baton Rouge-based district, which he easily won in 2022, is now projected to favor Democrats.

Zoom in: Johnson and Scalise have been ramping up pressure for Graves to seek re-election in his current district, but Graves has been toying with the notion of challenging Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.) or Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) in their neighboring, more GOP-friendly districts.

  • "I have encouraged Garret to think hard about running in that newly drawn district," Johnson said during a recent appearance on "Talk Louisiana."
  • Graves recently told reporters he'll decide soon" on where to seek re-election.
  • He has until mid-July to decide. His indecision hasn't won him any friends.

Driving the news: Multiple GOP lawmakers told Axios things have become increasingly contentious between Graves and his GOP colleagues, with members describing heated confrontations over fundraisers in his district and using shared donors.

  • Two of the lawmakers told Axios they're irritated their names were featured on a notice for a recent Graves fundraiser without their consent.
  • Graves also sparked frustration with a recent campaign email highlighting attempts to oust Johnson as speaker, and accusations that Republican Gov. Jeff Landry is "trying to end" Graves' career, the sources said.
  • "He creates a lot of his own problems," one GOP member said, adding that Graves "literally goes out of his way to go after people."

The other side: Graves' team denied that members were added to his fundraiser without prior approval, telling Axios that Graves personally confirmed all of the lawmakers listed as hosts.

  • One Louisiana source with knowledge of the situation defended Graves' political email, saying he actually was defending Johnson, and the mention of Landry was added "as just a smart-aleck joke."
  • The source also dismissed complaints about Graves' fundraising.

Zoom out: The bitter leadership battle among Republicans that fueled McCarthy's ouster led several of his allies to retire or lose influence in the House GOP's power structure.

  • Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C), who was interim speaker for three weeks as lawmakers struggled to tap a replacement for McCarthy, is retiring at the end of this session.
  • Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), is leaving Congress to run for North Dakota governor.
  • Also leaving are several longtime members with seniority on powerful committees, such as Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.).
Go deeper