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

A man in a suit speaks to reporters.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), shown speaking to reporters in Washington on Oct. 19, has announced he will leave the House by the end of the year.
(Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s decision to retire is not a surprise after he became the first speaker of the House to be ousted by a vote of the chamber, and provides a rare opportunity for an ambitious California Republican to seek higher office.

In a state where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by about 2 to 1, only 12 of the 54 politicians representing the state in Washington are in the GOP — so those openings don’t surface often.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy will give up his Bakersfield seat after nearly two decades in Congress, leaving House Republicans with an even slimmer majority.

Dec. 6, 2023

McCarthy, 58, has had the good fortune of representing one of the most conservative congressional districts in a state dominated by Democrats. Former President Trump won the district by a near 2-to-1 margin over President Biden in 2020.


So whoever voters pick might stick around for a while.

After serving as Republican leader in the California Assembly, McCarthy in 2006 became one of the few GOP newcomers to be elected to Congress in a year Democrats swept Republicans out of power. There might be some déjà vu in the future.

One Republican who already has announced a bid to succeed McCarthy also represents the Bakersfield area in the state Legislature: Assemblymember Vince Fong. Fong served as district director for McCarthy before being elected as a state lawmaker. State Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), a former minority leader in the California Senate and loyal Trump supporter, was considered as a front runner to replace McCarthy but announced she was not entering the race.

Fong, who worked for McCarthy for nearly a decade, is now the best-known Republican vying to replace the Bakersfield congressman.

Dec. 11, 2023

The vacancy also may tempt some former members of Congress who represented districts in the Central Valley. Devin Nunes, a Trump supporter who now serves as chief executive of his media company, still has $11 million socked away in a congressional campaign account, according to the latest report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Bakersfield is the city with the most voters in McCarthy’s 20th Congressional District, which includes portions of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties in the San Joaquin Valley. Along with the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada and a sliver of the Mojave Desert, the district swallows up a major portion of California oil country and some of the most productive — and lucrative — farmland in the nation.

So who will represent this vast district?



Assemblymember Vince Fong speaks at a microphone while holding papers.
Assemblymember Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield).
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)


Assemblymember Vince Fong, 44, Republican

First elected to the Assembly in 2016, Fong serves as the vice chair of the budget and transportation committees.

The Bakersfield Republican began his career in politics as a staff member for longtime Bakersfield Rep. Bill Thomas, who served as a chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, where Fong worked on international trade policy. Fong then served as McCarthy’s district director, advising the congressman on issues affecting the Central Valley and helping serve constituents.

Fong has been a vocal critic of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s push for restricting oil production in California and the administration’s overall energy policies, and has warned that the state’s electricity grid is not capable of supporting the administration’s mandated transition to electric vehicles. Fong also has criticized the spending policies of state money by Newsom and the California Legislature’s Democratic leadership.



Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, 47, Republican

Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig sits in a high back black leather chair and gestures with one hand.
Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig is a former youth pastor who also served as mayor of Clovis.
(Craig Kohlruss / Fresno Bee / TNS)


Republican Nathan Magsig is a member of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors who unsuccessfully ran for Congress last year for the seat occupied by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove).

He has acted as a conservative firebrand in the Fresno area, voting earlier this year to sue the state of California over a law that requires cities to eliminate the Native American slur “squaw” from geographic features and place names. He has also echoed Trumpisms about unfounded election fraud claims.

The former youth pastor who also served as mayor of conservative Clovis was a staunch McCarthy supporter, telling The Times earlier this month: “My focus now is to show my support for him.”


Wild cards and long shots

Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford)
Former Rep. Devin Nunes, Republican
Former Rep. Connie Conway, Republican
John Burrows, Democrat
Andy Morales, Democrat