Sen. Rick Scott says he'll run to be next Senate Republican leader

Sen. Rick Scott speaks during a news conference at the Capitol, April 16, 2024. (Tierney L. Cross/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rick Scott has officially thrown his hat in the ring to become the next Senate Republican leader.

Scott announced his plans to seek the top party leadership position in a letter to his Republican colleagues Wednesday afternoon.

"I believe that our voters want us to use this leadership election to make a choice to upend the status quo in Washington," Scott said in the letter, obtained by ABC News. "If you also believe this to be true and want a leader dedicated to that principle, I would be honored to have the opportunity to earn your support."

News of Scott's announcement was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Scott's entrance to the race makes him the third Senate Republican to announce they're seeking the role since current Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced in late February that he would step down from his position atop the conference at the end of the year. McConnell has held the role for about 17 years.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the current Republican whip, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who previously held the No. 2 role before terming out, have both also announced their intent to run.

Scott previously sought the GOP leadership role in 2022, when he challenged McConnell for the top role during a closed-door leadership election. McConnell easily defeated him, but Scott did earn a groundswell of support from members on the right of the conference eager to see a major shake-up to the way the conference functions.

His disagreements with McConnell have played out publicly in recent years, especially when Scott released his own 11-point plan outlining a number of conservative approaches on a range of topics that at times broke with the official positions of the party. Scott was then the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee but released the plan in his personal capacity, not as head of the committee.

Still, those positions were backed by some Republican colleagues. And in his letter Wednesday, Scott promised to continue to usher in substantial changes to the regular order if elected party leader.

"This is not a time to make small adjustments," Scott said. "I believe we need a dramatic sea change to save our country and that's why I'm running to be Republican leader."

The Senate leadership race will take place behind closed doors and by secret ballot sometime in the late fall or early winter, after the November election determines whether Republicans retake the White House or the Senate.

It's unclear how much of a sway former President Donald Trump will ultimately have on the outcome of the leadership race, but many Republicans have said they'll consider him as a factor in their vote.

Scott is a longtime loyalist of Trump. Earlier this month, he traveled to New York to act as a surrogate for Trump at the former president's criminal trial.

In his letter to colleagues Wednesday, Scott put Trump front and center.

"Come January 20, to turn this country around, we will need to work closely with President Trump," Scott wrote. "I have known President Trump since before either of us ran for any political office. As Republican leader, I will protect senators' interest while helping President Trump accomplish his goals. Our country's success and our Conference's success will be dependent on President Trump's success."

Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 6:17AM by Allison Pecorin, ABC News Permalink