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The race to replace McCarthy in California

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Sunday was Kevin McCarthy's last day on the job. Today the eight-term Republican from California woke up a regular civilian. After a tumultuous year, McCarthy reached the highest position in Congress as speaker of the House before being ousted just months later after efforts by members of his own party. Now someone has to fill his shoes, and the race is on to replace the one-time Republican leader in his Bakersfield district. As KVPR's Joshua Yeager reports, the contest is shaping up to be just as chaotic as McCarthy's brief speakership.

JOSHUA YEAGER, BYLINE: Republicans in Bakersfield didn't expect to be in this position, but here they are.

GREG PERRONE: I'm horribly disappointed.

YEAGER: Greg Perrone is president of the Greater Bakersfield Republican Assembly. After watching Bakersfield boy Kevin McCarthy rise to speaker of the House, the group is weighing their options for a totally new representation.

PERRONE: And then if you look at the fiasco of who's going to run to replace him, it just created a bigger mess instead of doing the honorable thing, which is, I'm not going to seek reelection.

YEAGER: McCarthy's departure has unleashed a political feeding frenzy here in the district. Ten candidates will duke it out for McCarthy's seat. One of them, Assemblyman Vince Fong, was a McCarthy staffer and has his endorsement. But McCarthy's tenuous succession plan has created problems for his heir apparent.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The secretary of state has announced Vince Fong will not be allowed to run for the 20th Congressional District.

YEAGER: That's because the two-term assemblyman's name is already on the ballot for reelection to the state House. A Sacramento judge, though, ruled in the candidate's favor, striking down a century-old law that prevents candidates from running for two offices on the same ballot. Secretary of State Shirley Weber says she'll appeal the ruling. All the attention has put a bull's eye on Fong for other candidates.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID GIGLIO: Vince should not be in this race.

YEAGER: David Giglio hoped to unseat McCarthy even before his resignation. That's why he's here, making his case to the Bakersfield Republican Assembly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GIGLIO: This is a chance for the Central Valley to change course. Kevin McCarthy has dictated California Republican politics now for decades.

YEAGER: Fong will have a distinct advantage with McCarthy's weight and war chest behind him. McCarthy leaves Congress with some 10 million in the bank. But before anyone can choose who they want to take the seat in 2025, the district will hold a separate special election to fill the rest of McCarthy's term, an election that hasn't even been scheduled yet.

For NPR News, I'm Joshua Yeager in Bakersfield, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Joshua Yeager