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Republicans pick Kevin McCarthy as House majority leader

By Emily Stephenson and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives Republicans on Thursday chose an ally of Speaker John Boehner for the No. 2 job in the chamber, a setback for some conservative lawmakers hoping to use a leadership election to boost their influence.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, already the third-ranking House Republican, was chosen to replace Eric Cantor as majority leader, a Republican aide announced.

He will control the House floor and help decide the party's legislative priorities. McCarthy previously served as party whip, drumming up votes for legislation. House Republicans will also vote on Thursday to pick his replacement.

McCarthy fended off a challenge from the party's conservative wing, which saw an opportunity after a little-known professor with Tea Party support shockingly defeated Cantor in his Virginia primary.

McCarthy's challenger in the secret ballot election, Idaho Representative Raul Labrador, told Republicans on Wednesday he was running because the caucus lacked a "clear, bold vision."

Cantor has said he will leave his position at the end of July.

McCarthy, who is in his fourth term in Congress, is seen as holding similar political views as Cantor but has a different leadership style. He has a reputation for being friendly, though some members thought as party whip he did not twist enough arms to garner votes on controversial bills.

"Kevin seems to fly by the seat of his pants a little bit," Representative Richard Hudson of North Carolina said on Wednesday. "McCarthy's more affable. He takes his coat off for every meeting, he rolls up his sleeves, and he's not worried about being formal and having to look polished."

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell Writing by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Bill Trott and James Dalgleish)

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