U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, is a leading contender to serve as the next homeland security chief and is interested in the position, a source close to the congressman tells the Tribune.

The news – first reported by Politico – could put the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee at the head of the department that oversees the federal emergency response to Hurricane Harvey , which affected the southeastern part of his sprawling Austin-to-Katy district.

But it would also, for a short time, leave the 10th District without a Congressional representative and advocate, although the Houston delegation spent most of Thursday touting its all-for-one-and-one-for-all mantra in the storm's aftermath.

McCaul was also a leading contender for the post when President Trump first chose his cabinet, but the position went to John Kelly, who now serves as the president's chief of staff.

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In recent years, McCaul was a leading party spokesman on national security – particularly during terrorist attacks.

He also served as a top adviser to candidate Trump during the campaign and helped the president with debate preparation.

McCaul was also frequently mentioned last year as a potential primary challenger to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, but most of that chatter died down by the beginning of the new year.

Should he be selected, McCaul would vacate his seat representing the predominantly Republican 10th District seat and a special election would take place over the coming months.

Back when McCaul was under cabinet consideration in late 2016, GOP operatives pointed to several local Republicans as potential candidates in a special election to replace him including state Rep. John Cyrier of Lockhart, oil and gas investor Brian Haley, Texas Public Policy Foundation board member Stacy Hock, state Rep. Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs and Austin-based communications consultant Jenifer Sarver. 

A McCaul spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Disclosure: Jenifer Sarver and the Texas Public Policy Foundation have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • We checked with all 38 members of the Texas Congressional delegation about their stance on the Trump administration's DACA decision. [Full story]

  • In July, McCaul made clear he believed Russia was responsible for cyberattacks on Democrats in 2016 and President Trump should hold Putin accountable. [Full story]

  • Late last year, McCaul drew criticism from hardline illegal immigration opponents in his bid to be Trump's first homeland security chief. [Full story]

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