By United States Congress (U.S. Government and Printing Office) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By United States Congress (U.S. Government and Printing Office) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, whose congressional district includes portions of Lancaster and Quartz Hill, threw Congress into disarray Thursday when he abruptly withdrew from the race to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.

McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, made the stunning announcement at the beginning of a Republican House conference in Washington, D.C., where he was expected to be officially nominated to replace Rep. John Boehner.

“I have the deepest respect and regard for each member of the conference and our team as a whole,” McCarthy said. “It is imperative for us to unite and work together on the challenges facing our country. Over the last week it has become clear to me that our conference is deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader.

“I have always put this conference ahead of myself. Therefore I am withdrawing my candidacy for Speaker of the House. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to help move our conference’s agenda and our country forward.”

Although McCarthy was widely expected to become the next Speaker, he still couldn’t shore up full support from conservative Republicans who were instrumental in driving Boehner out of the post. McCarthy’s candidacy was also damaged by comments he made in a recent interview suggesting that the House committee that investigated the deadly uprising in Benghazi sought to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

McCarthy told reporters today he wanted Republicans to be united behind the next Speaker, and did not want the voting process to be divisive.

“If we are going to be strong, we’ve got to be united,” he said.

Two other Republicans — Daniel Webster of Florida and Jason Chaffetz of Utah — have been bandied about as possible alternative candidates. Following McCarthy’s announcement, Republicans postponed the nomination process, calling into question the possibility of an Oct. 29 vote.

—Staff and wire reports

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