House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's defeat this week in a primary election in Virginia has ignited a race among lawmakers who'd like to have his GOP leadership job. And Rep. Kevin McCarthy's decision to try to move up to majority leader from his current job as whip has created another contest. Votes are scheduled for next Thursday for majority leader, the No. 2 job behind Speaker John Boehner, and for majority whip, the No. 3 party post.

A look at those in the running:

MAJORITY LEADER CANDIDATES

KEVIN MCCARTHY

McCarthy, 49, is from Bakersfield at the southern end of California's agriculture-rich Central Valley. His start in politics was as an intern for longtime Republican congressman and Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, whose seat McCarthy now holds. McCarthy also served in the California state Assembly, where he was the Republican leader.

McCarthy was first elected to Congress in 2006 and was elected whip, the third-ranking post, after the 2010 midterm elections in which Republicans retook control of Congress. He is an affable political junkie who can reel off statistics about districts and election returns. His whip operation has won praise but also generated mixed results as he and other leaders struggled to hold their fractious GOP caucus together.

McCarthy represents a district with changing demographics, including many Latinos. He and his wife, Judy, have two children.

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PETE SESSIONS

Sessions, 59, a native of Waco, Texas, is chairman of the House Rules Committee that sets the terms of debate for legislation on the House floor. He is seen as allied with Boehner but is presenting himself as the harder-charging conservative in the race. Sessions spent years in the private sector, working for 16 years for what was then Southwestern Bell before his election to Congress in 1996. Sessions also has served as head of the House Republicans' campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, where he helped lead the GOP to retake the House in 2010.

Sessions, an Eagle Scout, is married to Karen Sessions and has two sons and three step-sons. He represents North Dallas. Sessions considered running against McCarthy for the whip's post in 2010, so their race is something of a rematch.

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WHIP CANDIDATES

Rep. Steve Scalise (skuh-LEES'), 48, is the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 160 GOP lawmakers considered the most conservative in the House. Underscoring Scalise's insistence on fiscal discipline was his January 2013 vote against Hurricane Sandy aid because the crafters of the legislative package failed to offset spending with budget cuts. It was an unusual vote for a Louisiana congressman who represents the New Orleans suburbs and the state's southern region hard hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Scalise was elected to the House in May 2008, filling the seat once held by current Gov. Bobby Jindal. Scalise is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a strong proponent of traditional energy sources such as oil drilling.

He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children.

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Rep. Peter Roskam, 52, is an attorney and chief deputy whip who recently was tapped by Boehner to serve on the select committee investigating the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Roskam worked for longtime Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde and served in the Illinois legislature with a state senator named Barack Obama. Roskam's biography highlights that in the Illinois legislature he and Obama "partnered to enact significant reforms to the state's criminal justice system."

After unsuccessful bids, Roskam was elected to the House in 2006 and represents a district northwest of Chicago. He serves on the Ways and Means Committee.

Roskam and his wife, Elizabeth, have four children.

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Rep. Marlin Stutzman, 37, is a fourth-generation farmer and tea party favorite who was elected to the House in 2010, his second race that year. Stutzman had sought the GOP nomination in the race for retiring Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh's seat, but the primary winner was national Republicans' favorite, former Sen. Dan Coats. When Rep. Mark Souder revealed he had an extramarital affair with an aide, Republicans turned to Stutzman, a former staffer for Souder, to replace him on the ballot in the northeast Indiana district that includes Fort Wayne.

Stutzman, a member of the Financial Services Committee, often has pushed for an uncompromising approach on the GOP agenda.

He and family members, including his father, run a farm of 4,000 acres and grow soybeans, green beans and seed corn.

Stutzman and his wife, Christy, have two children.