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GOP Conference vice chair candidates compete with swag

Cupcakes. Chick-fil-A. Cigars. Those are just a few of the gifts candidates for the House GOP vice chair post have handed out to colleagues as they try to stand out in a crowded field.

Speaker Mike Johnson, of course, previously held the second-tier leadership post. Now seven candidates are competing for the obscure role. House Republicans will meet to vote for the vice chair from 8-10 a.m. today.

The Republicans competing for the seat are: Reps. Beth Van Duyne (Texas), Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.), Mike Collins (Ga.), Mark Alford (Mo.), Blake Moore (Utah), Brian Mast (Fla.) and Michelle Fischbach (Minn.).

The candidates made their case for the position in a closed-door forum on Tuesday, which some lawmakers described as boring. It was clear that the campaign swag remained front and center on many members’ minds.

“I think that’s for members to kind of keep their name top of mind,” Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) told us. “Beth Van Duyne had a card with a video in it making an appeal. That’s innovative. I got some Coke and peanuts. Got an energy drink from someone else, just little things.”

Several members said they were most impressed with Van Duyne’s digital greeting card that opened to a video of her making her case for vice chair.

Members also got cigars from Alford, cans of the Salt Lake City-based Black Rifle Coffee from Moore, Chick–fil–A sandwiches from Collins and cupcakes from Malliotakis.

“It’s a really good cupcake,” Malliotakis told us.

Malliotakis also designed a one-page pamphlet shaped like the Statue of Liberty sharing her messaging strategy.

Collins went all out and gave members several presents, including Halloween treat bags, Coca-Cola bottles and Georgia peanuts, and a custom-made “Member of Congress” koozie. (Collins has become known for animated memes on his social media.)

The Georgia Republican also provided custom cookies for communications directors along with Chick-fil-A meals for member offices, according to his aides.

Moore told us the gifting aspect of the race was a way to make it fun after the burnout the conference felt following the three-week speaker saga.

“The creative side is always good, but I don’t think the best treat gets the ultimate vote,” Moore said.

Of course, members will be judged by their platform as well as their relationships with their colleagues. With the campaign gifts, members have included an agenda and the goals they would like to achieve as vice chair.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), who is supporting Van Duyne, said most members have had their minds made up already. He predicted the forum’s audience had just about over half of the full conference.

“I got a cupcake and several other things, but I’m a Texan so I’m supporting Van Duyne,” Babin told us. “They’re all very capable candidates, so we’ll see what happens.”

Mica Soellner

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.