California’s Central Valley votes again to replace Kevin McCarthy in Congress

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California’s Central Valley votes again to replace Kevin McCarthy in Congress

California politics, elections 2024, homepage news

Laura J. Nelson

March 19, 2024

Two weeks after narrowing the field of candidates to represent them in Congress starting next year, voters in the San Joaquin Valley are voting again.

On Tuesday, Central Valley voters will cast their ballots in a separate special election to complete the remainder of former Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s term in the House of Representatives. The Bakersfield Republican left Congress at the end of 2023, with one year left in his term, after his own party ousted him as speaker of the House of Representatives.

The battle to succeed McCarthy has pitted Republicans against Republicans in the 20th Congressional District, which includes Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. The frontrunners include McCarthy’s hand-picked successor, Assembly Member Vince Fong; and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, a law enforcement conservative.

If Fong or Bourdreaux wins the special election, he will run as an incumbent member of Congress in the November regular elections, a significant advantage in the race to represent the San Joaquin Valley district in Congress in 2025 and 2026.

It would help “tremendously” to be the incumbent on the November ballot, said Republican consultant Rob Stutzman, who does not work for either candidate. “It’s a huge boost.”

Stutzman said voters probably wouldn’t want to support another candidate months after sending someone to Washington. And, he said, being sworn into Congress after the special election would build support among the National Republican Congressional Committee, which donates to support incumbents in their reelection fights.

There are nine candidates on the special election ballot. Two are Democrats, including Marisa Wood, a high school teacher who is running against McCarthy in 2022. Four are Republicans, including Fong, Boudreaux and Fresno casino owner Kyle Kirkland, who lent his campaign $485,000, federal records show. There are three candidates without party preference.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in Tuesday’s special election, the race will take place on May 21.

Much of the Republican establishment has rallied behind Fong, who began his career as McCarthy’s district director before being elected to represent Bakersfield in the State Assembly.

Two super PACs, one funded by McCarthy’s political action committee, spent more than $670,000 to boost Fong through digital ads, text messages and mailers, federal documents show. A group called Central Valley Values ​​sent ads about Wood to the district’s Democrats, apparently in an effort to help her advance to the general election. In a deep red district, Fong could easily get elected in both races if he faced a Democrat.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank and his allies used a similar strategy in the Senate race in California, boosting Republican Steve Garvey in an effort to knock Rep. Katie Porter, a fierce liberal competitor, out of the November election. to hold.

The strategy didn’t work in the Central Valley, where primary election results for the full two-year term show Fong with about 42% of the primary vote, Boudreaux with 24% and Wood with about 21%.

Fong also received support from former President Trump, a huge advantage in one of California’s most Republican congressional districts. Trump wrote last month on his social network Truth Social that Fong would work in Congress to “grow the economy, lower taxes, reduce burdensome regulations, defend America’s energy, and protect and defend of the Second Amendment, which is under siege by the US government. radical left.”

Fong said in a statement that the Central Valley “is ready to once again have leaders in DC, like President Trump, who will fight for our interests and values.”

Trump’s support for Fong, Stutzman said, “really cuts off any kind of insurgency from the right.”

Boudreaux has cast himself as an alternative to the Central Valley’s established Republican politics.


He has been endorsed by Sens. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) and David Giglio, the self-described “America First” candidate who dropped out of the race for Congress last month.

The Central Valley “demands leadership in Washington with real experience dealing with our biggest problems: security and our open border,” Boudreaux said after the Associated Press said he would advance to the November vote. Boudreaux advanced despite being “outnumbered 10 to 1 by swampy DC special interests and super PACs looking to protect the status quo,” his campaign manager said in a statement.

The election got off to a rocky start, with legal confusion over whether Fong, who initially ran for re-election in the 32nd Assembly District, is eligible to run for Congress. Fong changed his mind, filed for Congress and was barred from the ballot by California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, a Democrat, who said state law prohibits candidates from running for two offices in one election.

Fong sued, arguing that the law Weber cited has not applied since 2010, when California voters scrapped the state’s party nomination system and created a new system in which the two candidates who receive the most votes advance to the general elections, regardless of party affiliation. . A Sacramento County judge sided with Fong in late December and ruled that he could still appear on the ballot.

Weber’s office appealed the decision in late January, asking the 3rd District Court to rule on Fong’s eligibility by April 12, the deadline for Weber to declare the primary election results.


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