As his party’s whip in the House, Representative Steve Scalise is known among his colleagues as a pleasant, persistent force, who gently checks back to see whether a lawmaker who has repeatedly said “nope, not with you” on an upcoming vote has had a change of heart.
Back home in southern Louisiana, Mr. Scalise, a Republican, hangs his own Christmas lights on his modest house in suburban Jefferson while his security team idles nearby; pads around the Sam’s Club with his honey-do list on Saturdays and continues to knock on doors for votes, even though he has few challengers these days.
In both places, Mr. Scalise, who played high school baseball, is known for his passionate love of the sport and for the annual congressional baseball game, a storied tradition in Washington, in which Republicans play Democrats for charity. His office is decorated with photos of him playing in prior contests, and he is a fixture at practices.
He was standing at second base during one of those practices Wednesday outside Washington, one day before the game, when a gunman opened fire, wounding Mr. Scalise and at least three others, including two members of his protective detail, the authorities said. Witnesses said Mr. Scalise was shot in the hip and fell to the ground, then crawled toward taller outfield grass as shots rang out.
Mr. Scalise was taken to a Washington hospital where he had surgery and was in stable condition, his aides said.
“Steve loves and passionately looks forward to that congressional baseball game,” said Jason Hebert, a Republican political consultant who has worked with Mr. Scalise for years. “When he ran for whip after his election, he gave everyone on his team a Marucci baseball bat, which is made in Louisiana. He has a real love for baseball. This was a real big source of pride and enjoyment for him.”
Mr. Scalise, 51, who served in the Louisiana State Legislature and has been a fixture in Louisiana Republican politics, was elected to the House in 2008 in a special election to replace Bobby Jindal, who had been elected governor. Mr. Scalise quickly and quietly amassed power among a diverse group of House Republicans, in spite of the most conservative wing’s persistent chafing at what it saw as his establishment-wing persona.
At the end of 2012, he was elected chairman for the Republican Study Committee, a large group of conservative House Republicans who are generally viewed as more favorable to House leaders than the far smaller House Freedom Caucus. Mr. Scalise used the position as a springboard to become whip, the number three position in the House.
Mr. Scalise seemed poised to rise in House leadership after former House Speaker John Boehner announced in 2015 that he would retire, but the bid by Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, to replace Mr. Boehner was scuttled and Mr. Scalise stayed put. He was somewhat hobbled by revelations that year that he had addressed a group of white supremacists affiliated with David Duke in Metairie, La., a dozen years prior.
Mr. Scalise is popular among his colleagues, who say he refrains from the sort of hardball tactics that whips sometimes use to wring out votes. “He generally tries to use a soft-glove approach,” said Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, who resisted voting for a health care bill that the White House deeply wanted to pass. “He is relentless even if you’ve told him no. I was a no on health care, but that didn’t stop him and coming up again and asking.”
Mr. Scalise, who is married with two children, is big on telling stories and jokes, and has been known to don a waiter’s jacket and show up at the tables of friends and associates if he learns they are dining in the same restaurant.
Withmuch turnover in the Louisiana congressional delegation in recent years, and with a Democrat governor at the helm, Mr. Scalise is widely viewed as his party’s biggest elected star in the state, and a rainmaker for other lawmakers.
“Steve just has the golden touch,” said Brian Trascher, a lobbyist in New Orleans with long-lasting political ties to Mr. Scalise. He campaigned for Mr. Scalise as a student at Louisiana State University, Mr. Scalise’s alma mater, when he first ran for the statehouse in 1995. “I think just because he may be the longest-serving Republican elected official in the state, he is definitely the most powerful Republican in the state right now.”
Mr. Trascher added, “When he became whip we would joke, ‘Oh Steven, you’re a big shot now, you’ve got bodyguards.’ Well and thank Jesus Christ he had those now.”