MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus took himself out of consideration Thursday as a candidate to replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, as other Wisconsin Republicans contemplated whether to join the fray.
Ryan abruptly announced Wednesday that he would not seek re-election in November. Priebus was one of several Republicans from Ryan’s southeast Wisconsin congressional district floated as a possible candidate. The deadline for candidates to file is June 1, just seven weeks away.
Priebus, who previously lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but now lives near Washington, D.C., categorically ruled out a run.
“I’m always interested in serving but the timing for me couldn’t be worse,” Priebus said on “The Jay Weber Show.” “It’s been a massive run politically, but the cost is, of course, you just haven’t been around.”
Priebus was a mainstay in Wisconsin politics for years, running unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2004 and ascending to be state Republican Party chairman in 2007. After overseeing a Republican sweep in the 2010 election — when Scott Walker was first elected governor — Priebus became chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2011, a post he held until he took over as White House chief of staff in January.
He left that role in July and returned to work for his previous law firm.
“Being a little separated from the daily political grind has been unbelievable,” Priebus said. “I’ve got to concentrate on my career, building a retirement, all the things that most people listening to this have been doing for 20 or 30 years.”
Priebus, Ryan and Walker formed a Wisconsin-centered political powerhouse that included Walker’s run for president, Ryan’s ascendancy as speaker and Priebus’ rise to work in the White House. Priebus has now returned to the private sector, Ryan is about to join him and Walker must win re-election in November to stay in office.
Other Republicans considering a run in Ryan’s district include: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos; state Reps. Tyler August, Samantha Kerkman and Amy Loudenbeck; state Sen. David Craig, a former Ryan aide; and Ryan’s longtime friend Bryan Steil, a lawyer and University of Wisconsin Board of Regents member.
Priebus said he had dinner with Vos, his college roommate, on Wednesday night but would not say whether he’s interested in running. Vos did not return messages seeking comment.
The only declared Republicans so far are Paul Nehlen, who was banned from Twitter earlier this year for a series of posts criticized as racist or anti-Semitic, and Nick Polce, an Army veteran who is also an owner of a security consulting firm. Ryan’s political director Kevin Seifert said Nehlen is not qualified to serve in public office.
The union iron-worker Randy Bryce, who goes by the nickname “Iron Stache,” and Janesville teacher Cathy Myers are running on the Democratic side. Bryce raised $2.1 million in the first three months of the year and Myers raised $500,000. Bryce has raised $4.75 million to date compared with $800,000 for Myers.