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Mica Soellner


NextImg:Fighting words: This freshman congressman came to Capitol Hill to battle Dems, GOP establishment

Rep. Eli Crane says he came to Washington with one mission: Halt the Democrats’ leftwing agenda from taking over America.

That’s what the freshman lawmaker told the Arizona voters who sent him to Washington and he said he will keep that promise, no matter what.

But Mr. Crane has already proven that he is ready to buck his Republican party too. By all accounts, he keeping his vow to be an independent voice against the GOP establishment.

“The biggest thing lacking from this town is moral courage,” Mr. Crane told The Washington Times. “There’s a lot of smart people here, but sometimes I think these smart people come here and forget who they actually work for. They don’t work for Republican leadership. They don’t work for this town.”

Mr. Crane got noticed early on in his congressional career when he joined the band of GOP rebels who opposed Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid for the speaker’s gavel, which dragged out the process for a week before Mr. McCarthy finally emerged as the House speaker.

Mr. Crane was the only freshman to hold out against Mr. McCarthy until the 15th and final round of voting for speaker. That’s when Mr. Crane cast his vote as “present,” which helped Mr. McCarthy win in the final tally. 

Mr. McCarthy’s detractors saw him as too much in the establishment mold. The roughly 20 House Republicans who opposed him managed to secure deals in exchange for clearing the way for him to become speaker. Those deals empowered rank-and-file lawmakers and created select committees to investigate the COVID pandemic and the weaponization of government.

It was a bold first move for a political newcomer, but Mr. Crane said he hasn’t faced any retribution and was content with the committee assignments he got. He serves on Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and Small Business committees.

That said, Mr. Crane said he doesn’t care to be popular in his conference, even if that means he’ll be an outcast at times.

“I don’t expect to be buddy-buddy or best friends with Speaker McCarthy or really anybody in leadership. That’s not why I’m here,” Mr. Crane said. “I’m here to represent the people that sent me here and their interests and if that means that Speaker McCarthy happens to be happy with where I’m at in representing them on a certain day then that’s cool, and if it’s not that’s OK too because I didn’t come up here to make friends.”

Mr. Crane defeated Blue Dog Democrat Tom O’Halleran last year in Arizona’s largely rural 2nd Congressional District, which favored Republicans after redistricting.

Before jumping into the political fray, Mr. Crane was a Navy SEAL and then an entrepreneur who once appeared on the ABC reality business competition show “Shark Tank.” His pitch for the show was his Bottle Breacher personalized gifts for men that are made by military members and veterans.

Mr. Crane, who is married with two daughters, ran on the “America First” agenda endorsed by former President Donald Trump and was among the first to throw his support behind Mr. Trump’s reelection bid.

The congressman said border security is one of his top issues, as well as bringing forward a conservative agenda that fights “woke” culture and the decline of traditional values.

“It’s extremely disturbing and I’m not afraid to talk about it,” Mr. Crane said about America’s culture wars. “This country has Judeo-Christian roots and that’s one of the reasons this country has been so successful, and a lot of what I see in our culture is extremely alarming and I don’t think it’s a coincidence or accident.”

On his quest to create waves Inside the Beltway, Mr. Crane said he knows the odds are against him. But he said he’s encouraged that Mr. McCarthy has been keeping the promises made to him and his colleagues who stood up to him.

“I know that the swamp and the establishment are pretty institutional,” Mr. Crane said. “It spits out guys like me left and right who want to come here and change it or it converts us and influences us and then sucks us in. I knew it would be really hard to get anything done here, but I would argue that I’ve already been a part of getting stuff done.”

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.