By John Gizzi
Less than 24 hours before Alabama's Gary Palmer is sworn into the House of Representatives for the first time, the conservative Republican explained to Newsmax that he will cast his first vote to oppose the re-election of Speaker John Boehner.
"I cannot vote for Mr. Boehner and personally told him that in September," said Palmer, former chief development officer for the conservative Alabama Policy Institute, who in July won the Republican nomination to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Spencer Bachus in the state's 6th District (Birmingham).
The congressman-elect and longtime conservative activist emphasized that he was not part of any "dump Boehner" movement and has "no idea" how serious the candidacies are for speaker of Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Ted Yoho of Florida.
"I talked to Louie [on Monday] and got a call from [Yoho] but haven't returned it yet," said Palmer, who spoke to us shortly after arriving in Washington on Monday afternoon. Along with the two challengers and Palmer, three other Republican House members are publicly declared against Boehner: Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Steve King of Iowa, and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana.
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Palmer recalled how he initially ran in a seven-candidate GOP primary in which "national conservative groups backed one candidate, the 'tea party' backed another, and the 'establishment' backed another. You really have to demonstrate your conservative credentials in a race like that, and you have to listen to conservatives."
Opposing Boehner for speaker would not seem to be a bad way to "demonstrate your conservative credentials" among grassroots Republicans who are likeliest to vote in primaries. According to a recent survey conducted by veteran pollster Pat Caddell, 60 percent of voters nationwide who consider themselves Republicans want Boehner replaced as speaker.
Throughout the primary race, first-time candidate Palmer vowed to vote against Boehner if elected. After placing one-two with "establishment" favorite and state legislator Paul DeMarco, Palmer went on to win the runoff with 64 percent of the vote.
"And I told the speaker I had made a commitment not to vote for him, could not vote for him, and would not break my word," Palmer told us. "I never make politics personal. But if I tell you I'll do something, I do it.
"I think Mr. Boehner understood this and he knows when I say I'm with him on something, I will be."
To win back the confidence of conservatives such as himself, Palmer believes the speaker should take leadership on three key issues.
"First, he's got to help defund amnesty," he said, "This isn't about immigration but about the abuse of executive power. Congress has got to stop delegating its constitutional powers to the executive.
"Second, he's got to help take out as much of Obamacare as possible. And, third, he has to help roll back the excesses of the Environmental Protection Agency."
Two years ago, 12 Republicans backed candidates other than Boehner, but he won enough votes in the full House to be re-elected speaker. This year, assuming every Democrat votes for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California for speaker, Boehner can afford to lose up to 29 his fellow Republicans and still secure re-election on the first ballot.