Ex-Speaker McCarthy to Resign

Ever since he was ousted from his leadership position, speculation had become rampant about whether ex-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would run for re-election.

Yesterday, the answer was revealed.

With the California candidate filing deadline scheduled for tomorrow, Mr. McCarthy announced through a column in the Wall Street Journal that he will not seek re-election to a 10th term and plans to leave Congress at the end of this year. This outcome is not surprising and one many expected since his ouster as Speaker two months ago.

Though departing the House, Mr. McCarthy says he is not done helping to recruit and support Republican congressional candidates. One of his top assets to the party through his leadership positions was his fundraising ability and political acumen. With the $10+ million remaining in his campaign account, Mr. McCarthy will convert the committee to a PAC and use the funds to help further elect Republican candidates.

The McCarthy decision means 35 House seats will be open for the next election with seven coming from California alone and more retirements expected when other states’ candidate filing deadlines begin to approach.

Mr. McCarthy’s Bakersfield anchored district will remain safely in Republican hands, but the question remains as to whether a special election will be called. When the most recent California Republican seat became vacant - San Diego’s Duncan D. Hunter resigning in early 2020 - Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) simply didn’t schedule a special election and the seat remained vacant for the better part of a year.

Since Newsom previously got away with this course of action, it is quite possible he will attempt to hold the McCarthy seat in abeyance particularly since the Republican majority is dwindling with the expulsion of Rep. George Santos and Rep. Bill Johnson’s (R-OH) pending resignation.

With the Santos seat in danger of flipping to the Democrats in the February 13th special election, and potentially no special elections to replace either McCarthy or Rep. Johnson (if the latter man resigns after the December 20th candidate filing deadline no special can be called under Ohio voting procedure), the current 222-213 Republican majority would decrease to 219-214, thus yielding Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) the slimmest of margins to run the House.

California’s 20th District draws a R+31 rating from the FiveThirtyEight data organization and is the safest Republican seat in this heavily blue state. The Daily Kos Elections’ statisticians rank CA-20 as the 75th safest seat in the Republican Conference. Former President Donald Trump posted a 61-34% victory margin here over President Joe Biden in 2020. In his nine federal election campaigns, Rep. McCarthy averaged 75.5% of the vote, a number that included two elections where he saw little or no opposition.

The 20th District contains parts of four counties: Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare. Half of the district’s population resides in Kern County, including part of the cities of Bakersfield and Tehachapi. The other large population center, the city of Clovis, lies in Fresno County.

The district’s population is 53.4% Non-Hispanic white, features a large 30.1% Hispanic contingent, is 9.0% Asian, and just 4.4% black. With 228,776 votes cast in the 2022 election, CA-20 ranks as the 22nd strongest turnout district among the Golden State’s 52 congressional districts.

For the regular election, seeing a double-Republican runoff evolve from the all-party March 5th jungle primary is a distinct possibility. At this early point, the two leading potential contenders appear to be state Sen. Shannon Graves (R-Bakersfield) and Assemblyman Vincent Fong (R-Bakersfield).

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