On Monday, California Gavin Newsom scheduled a special election to fill the vacant seat left by Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for March 19th, giving Republicans a little more time to prepare for the race. He represented the 20th Congressional District, located approximately 60 miles north of Los Angeles and encompasses most of the northern Antelope Valley including Bakersfield, Mojave, and Edwards Air Force Base.
The district is, by all accounts, a solidly red district and the date selected by Governor Newsom was a surprise to many, as the assumption was that the special election would coincide with the state’s existing Primary Elections on March 5th. Kern County Republican Party officials expressed concerns to the Governor’s office that if the special election were to be held on March 5th, the election would lead to confusion amongst voters. Due to McCarthy’s early exit from Congress, a special election was required to fill the seat which would serve the remainder of the time he had, in addition to an election that would be for the new term.
McCarthy resigned from Congress in December of 2023 after being deposed by fellow House Republican Matt Gaetz (R-FL), among many others. The argument from Gaetz and other Republicans was that McCarthy had failed to follow through on promises that were made when he was elected as Speaker of the House in January of 2023. To garner votes from Gaetz and others, McCarthy made several concessions that would allow him to become Speaker, including allowing any individual to make a motion to vacate, which would force a vote on the floor. Ironically, it would be Gaetz, who just several months later, made such a motion.
The later date would allow more time to organize and reduce costs associated with a special election. The primary election for the new term of the 20th District seat will proceed as normal on March 5th. If there is not a clear-cut winner for the special election on March 19th, a run-off will be held on May 21st.
California Assemblymember Vince Fong, who represents the state’s 32nd Assembly District which is located within the 20th Congressional District, plans on running to replace the Former Speaker. McCarthy was a long-time mentor to Fong and the two are strong political allies. There are several other Republicans who are vying for the seat as well, including Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and former congressional candidate David Giglio.
Fong, however, is facing an uphill battle and legal fight after Shirley Weber, the Secretary of State for California, said that he cannot run for re-election to his assembly seat and run for the congressional seat at the same time. Fong had anticipated California State Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) to run for McCarthy’s seat and had filed for re-election to his own Assembly seat. However, after Grove declined to run, Fong filed papers to run for McCarthy’s seat. However, his legal issue arose due to the deadline for dropping out of the assembly race previously passing before he filed for the congressional seat, which Shirley states is illegal.
The 20th Congressional District is a solid red district, so any hopes or chances for the Democrats to flip that seat are slim to none. At this point, it’s a toss-up to see which Republican will succeed in replacing McCarthy.