McCarthy’s voters “don’t blame him,” but are afraid of losing their vote in Congress

Bakersfield, CA - December 6: Billie Jo Medders, age 92, a resident of Bakersfield, watches the fourth 2024 Republican Presidential Debate at a watch party at KC Steak House in Bakersfield, CA Wednesday, December 6, 2023 in Bakersfield, CA.  (Alex Horvath/Los Angeles Times)

(Alex Horvath/Los Angeles Times)

McCarthy’s voters don’t blame him, but they fear they will lose their votes in Congress

Homepage News, Elections 2024

Believe E. Pinho
Laura J. Nelson

Dec. 7, 2023

Billie Jo Medders can recite her history with Kevin McCarthy like a worn-out catechism. Before he was


gressman, before he was California’s first Republican


worrier of the House, he was the little boy who went to kindergarten with her daughter, the 13-year-old with a mouth full of braces, the newlywed who met his wife at Bakersfield High School.

“And then he came into our office,” said Medders, who worked for the then-representative for 30 years. Bill Thomas, McCarthy’s predecessor in Congress. And the rest is history.

Under the twinkling Christmas lights at a bar in downtown Bakersfield, Medders and the Republican women sitting around her were still processing McCarthy’s announcement earlier that day that the longtime Central Valley representative will retire from Congress by the end of the year.

The decision caused sadness, but not surprise, in McCarthy’s home district, the most Republican in California. For his constituents in Bakersfield and the surrounding area, the writing was on the wall over the past two months after bitter infighting among Republicans in the House of Representatives led to McCarthy’s historic, humiliating ouster as 55th Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“I’m sad to see him retire because I’m selfish, and I want people like Kevin McCarthy in Washington, D.C.,” said Annette Londquist, head of Bakersfield Republican Women, a club that counts McCarthy among its 515 members. “But with everything that has happened to him, I understand that it would be difficult to continue.”

McCarthy’s announcement Wednesday capped a tumultuous year in the House of Representatives, where Republicans have a razor-thin majority and discord among party members. McCarthy faced 14 failed votes in his quest to become speaker before he compromised with his hardline opponents in the Republican Party and agreed to reinstate a rule that made it easy for any member of the House of Representatives to

call for one

to vote

to remove it from the top post


That compromise secured McCarthy’s victory in January and led to his impeachment in October. Angered by his decision to work with the Democrats to prevent a government shutdown, a group of eight far-right Republicans led by Florida Representative Matt Gaetz were joined by the Democrats.


historic vote to remove McCarthy as



The move sparked anger in Bakersfield, where McCarthy, known simply as “Kevin,” is beloved by many.

“I don’t blame him,” Jacquie Sullivan, Bakersfield’s longest-serving city council member, said of McCarthy’s decision. She sat with Medders at a watch party for the Republican party’s primary debate on Wednesday evening. ‘He was so abused. “

Medders added, “Around here, Matt Gaetz is not a good name to mention. He just upset the whole apple cart, you know? Who knows what’s going to happen next?”

During McCarthy’s grueling quest for the gavel in January, Bakersfield resident Kathy Scrivner knelt in front of the television and prayed that her fellow congregation at Valley Baptist Church would emerge victorious.

Scrivner’s eyes filled with tears when she heard McCarthy was retiring. But, she said, she understands the stress that comes with public office: Her son sits on the Kern County Board of Supervisors, her sister is Kern County’s district attorney, and Scrivner herself is a

Core High School District


“I don’t think regular laypeople know how hard it is,” she said. “It’s hard to be criticized day and night.”

McCarthy is the third


aggression leader that California lost this year. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco resigned from the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives in January

democratic for a long time

Senator Dianne Feinstein died in September. Only two Californians still hold leadership positions: Reps. Pete Aguilar of Redlands, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus; and Ted Lieu of Torrance, vice chairman of the House Democrats.

Kevin McCarthy plans to retire from Congress at the end of this year

McCarthy has represented the Bakersfield region in Congress since 2007, taking over from Thomas, who had served for 28 years. So

the advent

change is unusual and, for some, unsettling.

He said he’s fighting for us, he’s fighting, he’s fighting and now he’s quit, said Greg Perrone, 59, chairman of the Greater Bakersfield Republican Assembly, the city’s more conservative Republican club. He said he is neither “a McCarthy fan” nor a “McCarthy enemy,” and doesn’t blame the congressman for being “probably a little fighter.”

“tired,” but chided McCarthy for not completing his term.

“He leaves a seat open, so now we don’t have a vote,” Perrone said.

Perrone said he had hoped for McCarthy

, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2006, do we need this? we just said he started in 2007/sw

would use his influence and fundraising efforts to continue pushing Republican priorities through Congress.

No date has been set for a special election

serving in the past year

of McCarthy’s current term. Candidates running for the full two-year term beginning January 2025 have until

next Wednesday Dec. 13

submit paperwork.

“I’m hearing from everyone,” said Cathy Abernathy, a Republican strategist and adviser to McCarthy, who gave him his first job in politics as an intern for Thomas’



Abernathy is an advisor to several possible candidates for McCarthy’s seat, including


Senator Shannon Grove, who has not announced it yet

if she wants to

walk. Assemblymember Vince Fong, who previously worked in Thomas and McCarthy’s offices, said Thursday he would not run for the congressional seat.

McCarthy’s departure will also be a rude awakening for US Republican leaders, said Jim Brulte, former chairman of the Republican Party of California.

The road to the House runs largely through New York and California, Brulte said. McCarthy’s biggest legacy will be helping Republicans win the House majority in 2010 and again in 2022, raising money and selecting diverse candidates who are a good political fit for their unique districts, he said. McCarthy understood, Brulte said, that “if you don’t have the majority, you can’t govern.”

Who will replace Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy in Congress? Here are possible candidates

A handful of congressional districts in California have been in a tug-of-war between the two major parties for years. In 2018, Democrats flipped seven seats, and in 2020, Republicans took back four.

New leadership in the House of Representatives, including a new speaker, Mike Johnson (R-La.), will have to spend time deepening the races and swing districts in the Golden State that McCarthy “knew instinctively because he was involved in California. politics for more than a quarter of a century,” Brulte said.

“It’s a huge loss for California,” he said. “And it’s a huge loss for Republicans in Congress. Even the Republicans in Congress who didn’t like Kevin may come to like him a lot more in December 2024.”

McCarthy, who grew up in Bakersfield, won his last election by more than 34 votes


points. Former Bakersfield




Mark Salvaggio, 73, an independent, said McCarthy would have won overwhelmingly

but, he said, being removed as speaker was “shameful” and “humiliating.”

Salvaggio, a regular letter writer at the Bakersfield-Californian, said letters to the editor have become increasingly critical of McCarthy in recent years. Despite the congressman’s relative popularity in his home district, few people jumped to his defense, Salvaggio noted. Others criticized the congressman for spending little time with his constituents, he said, especially in comparison to his constituents


his new neighbor in Congress, Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), who regularly holds town hall meetings

in his neighborhood


But McCarthy


has been separated from his district,” Salvaggio said. “I realized that Kevin becoming speaker was good for his district and for fellow Republicans in the state, but it never worked out because of his short tenure.”

On the debate watch party, Medders y


she and McCarthy

worked in the same team and did partial shifts for Thomas


still proudly remembers how she helped

the one-time speaker

being chosen


where he shot his first radio commercial and eventually served as his delegate for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

‘The world is his oyster,’ said Medders

from McCarthy



After he leaves office, “he will be able to do whatever he wants.”

Nelson and Times staff writer Seema Mehta reported from Los Angeles.


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