Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is all but assured of becoming the next House majority leader after a lawmaker considered to be a strong conservative challenger declined Thursday to run in the internal GOP race.

McCarthy, now the No. 3 House Republican, is by no means the top choice among Tea Party lawmakers who believe the current leadership is tied too closely to the establishment wing. But the path for his ascent to the No. 2 spot seemed to clear afgter Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said he would not seek the post to replace Rep. Eric Cantor. Cantor said he will step down from the position at the end of July. McCarthy will likely still face opposition from another Texan, Rep. Pete Sessions, but with Hensarling out, a potential regional showdown between the two largest state delegations in the House appears to be easing.

Sessions, a committee chairman and McCarthy rival, entered the race early, calling potential supporters on Tuesday night as Cantor was being defeated in the Virginia primary by a little-known conservative professor, Dave Brat, who is a 1982 graduate of Park Center High School in Brooklyn Park.

It’s possible that another conservative could enter the race, aides said, but McCarthy has moved quickly to lock down key votes. The election, which is by secret ballot, is set for Thursday.

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