McCarthy eyes payback as former staffer vies to replace him in California election

The House seat once held by Kevin McCarthy is finally set to receive a successor, and the former speaker is placing his finger on the scale in an effort to influence who carries on his legacy.

The special election runoff on Tuesday evening will feature a showdown between Vince Fong, a former McCarthy staffer, and Tulare Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, who has positioned himself as someone ready to challenge the Republican establishment McCarthy represents. Whoever wins will then gain an advantage in November when the seat is up for a full two-year term.

Once the winner of the special election is sworn into Congress, California’s 20th Congressional District will have a representative for the first time in nearly five months. The swearing-in will also bring a sense of reinforcement to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who has been navigating a historically thin majority paired with a group of hard-line conservatives who are unafraid to buck GOP leadership to get what they want.

The induction of either Fong or Boudreaux will bring the Republican majority to 218-213, giving Johnson a bit more breathing room by increasing his one-vote majority to two.

Fong is favored to win the seat after receiving 42.3% of the vote in March’s special election, which resulted in a runoff because no candidate secured over 50% of the vote. Boudreaux garnered 25.8%.

McCarthy has played a substantial role in Fong’s campaign by appearing at fundraising events and helping to secure a coveted endorsement from former President Donald Trump. A political action committee tied to the former speaker has also poured $450,000 into a pro-Fong super PAC to help boost his candidacy and target Boudreaux in the March primaries.

Despite leaving office in December 2023, McCarthy has still kept a high profile in Washington politics. Once a prolific fundraiser for the Republican Party, he has turned those efforts to boost candidates and set out on a revenge tour of sorts against the hard-line conservatives responsible for his ouster.


The replacement of McCarthy will chip away at the House’s efforts to fill a slew of other vacancies announced over the last few months. Those include the seats vacated by Republican Reps. Bill Johnson, Mike Gallagher, and Ken Buck, all of whom resigned from office before their terms expired. There is also the seat vacated by Democratic Rep. Donald Payne, who died late last month.

Those races are all considered not to be competitive and will provide Republicans a little boost to their majority once they are all filled. Until then, Johnson faces pushback from some hard-line members who have repeatedly threatened his leadership, including a failed ouster attempt by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) earlier this month.

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