In a letter to members of the House Republican Conference Friday evening, Congressman Peter Roskam of Wheaton asked for support in his bid for majority whip.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost his primary race on Tuesday, said he will step down from his leadership role at the end of July and would back Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy to replace him.
This has created an opportunity for Roskam, the Republicans' chief deputy whip and No. 4 on the GOP power ladder, to ascend to McCarthy's No. 3 spot.
After quoting a passage from Thomas Jefferson that included the phrase "[T]he ground of liberty is to be gained by inches," Roskam wrote, "That, my friends, is a whip card."
Roskam promised, "I will be reaching out to you personally," stressing that this is an important season for the House majority.
He mentioned his 3½ years as chief deputy whip, during which, he said, he was involved in "the difficult skirmishes on spending, on healthcare, on taxes, and above all on government intrusion and heavy handedness in a dizzying number of areas of our public and private lives."
He acknowledged that "we haven't always played smart. We haven't always worked as a team. In some situations, we haven't scored any points, or won the match."
However, he said, while it has been frustrating "to watch our economy and our core values backslide under the onslaught of President Obama and Harry Reid's class warfare and welfare state agenda, we don't have to live this way."
Roskam vowed his chief deputy whip would be from a red state, adding that he intends to organize "a Deputy Whip operation taking careful consideration of regional balance to ensure robust dialogue and representation."
Roskam wrote that, like Jefferson with the Declaration of Independence, "we need to articulate the big vision for that direction -- where we want our policies and our country to be in 10, 20, and 50 years, so the American people know where we stand and what we are fighting for into the future."
In addition to the example of Jefferson, he mentioned that of Henry Hyde, in whose seat Roskam came to Congress to serve.
"Henry redefined for generations what it means to be a principled conservative, scoring unparalleled victories on the most sacred of all issues we touch in our work here, the sanctity of human life," Roskam wrote. "He did it by being passionate, by being outspoken, by being unyielding in his faith and conviction, and by fighting inch by inch on the field of battle to achieve a more perfect union."
Leadership elections are set for Thursday, June 19, and the possible Republican shake-up comes just before the midterm elections this fall, when control of Congress is at stake.
• Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell contributed to this report.