Labrador, who was elected in the tea party wave in 2010, said it was time for the House to have "new leadership, fresh ideas, and a different approach" -- and he was just the congressman for the task.
"I want a House Leadership team that reflects the best of our conference. A leadership team that can bring the Republican conference together. A leadership team that can help unite and grow our party," Labrador said in a statement Friday.
"I am running for majority leader because I want to help create a vision of growth and opportunity for everyone and start getting to work for the American people," he said.
After Texas Reps. Jeff Hensarling and Pete Sessions withdrew from the race Thursday, Labrador hinted he had been approached by many of the caucus' tea party wing, urging him to run as an alternative to the establishment-backed McCarthy, R-Calif.
Labrador's entry into the race will shake up what was shaping up to be a coronation of McCarthy, who currently serves as the majority whip, the No. 3 spot in House Republican leadership.
"He's got this pretty wrapped up," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who is whipping votes for McCarthy. "I think he had this wrapped up pretty quick. At the end of the day I think McCarthy has got this one over the top."
The vote, scheduled for next Thursday, will be a secret ballot cast by all of the 233 members of the Republican caucus. Some members have said they would prefer a leader from a red state, like Idaho, rather than a blue or purple state, like California. And would he win the job, Labrador, 46, would be the first Hispanic and first Mormon to serve as leader.
Labrador's full statement:
"I was stunned when Eric Cantor lost his primary election earlier this week. Eric is a good friend and I have tremendous respect for him. But the message from Tuesday is clear -- Americans are looking for a change in the status quo.
"I want a House Leadership team that reflects the best of our conference. A leadership team that can bring the Republican conference together. A leadership team that can help unite and grow our party. Americans don't believe their leaders in Washington are listening and now is the time to change that.
"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. We must ensure every American has an equal opportunity to succeed, that they are treated fairly not only by the laws we pass in Congress, but by our political system. We must restore the proper role of government to create space for free markets and civil society to prosper and flourish. And we have to unify the country around the values we share, the ideas we all support, and solutions we can agree on. President Obama and the Democrats have had their chance and they have failed. Republicans must be willing to take these challenges head on with new leadership, fresh ideas, and a different approach. I am running for Majority Leader because I want to help create a vision of growth and opportunity for everyone and start getting to work for the American people."