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Republican Rep. Labrador running for House majority leader post

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Republican Representative Raul Labrador, a conservative Tea Party favorite, said on Friday that he is running for the post of House majority leader to replace Eric Cantor, who is stepping down.

Labrador announced his candidacy for the No. 2 post in the U.S. House of Representatives in a statement. He said he had been stunned by Cantor's primary election loss earlier this week, but that the message from that episode was clear: "Americans are looking for change in the status quo."

"Republicans need to address the growing challenges of immobility amongst the poor, insecurity in the middle class and stop protecting the special interests at the top," Labrador, 46, who was born in Puerto Rico but represents a district from Idaho in Congress, said in his statement.

"We must restore the proper role of government to create space for free markets and civil society to prosper and flourish ... Republicans must be willing to take these challenges head on with new leadership, fresh ideas, and a different approach," he said.

Labrador's allies had said earlier this week that he was being encouraged to run in the June 19 election by other members of Congress. They wanted to see a more conservative, less establishment-oriented lawmaker in the race than the only other contender now lobbying for the support of Republican lawmakers: Kevin McCarthy, who currently holds the No. 3 post.

Part of the Tea Party "wave" of lawmakers elected to Congress in 2010, Labrador has been prominent among House conservatives willing to defy the Republican establishment. He was among a dozen Republicans who declined to vote for House Speaker John Boehner in 2013.

Labrador abandoned bipartisan House talks on an immigration overhaul last year, and has said that Boehner should lose his gavel if he pursues immigration reform this year.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Eric Beech)

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