OAKLAND, Calif. - Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy submitted his official resignation from Congress, effective Dec. 31. As he concludes 17 years representing the Central Valley, the race to replace him has been marked by chaos.
The deadline to enter the race has expired, and the candidate McCarthy handpicked to succeed him has been deemed ineligible to run.
"Everyone would sort of agree he’s the expected heir of Congressman McCarthy," said Tal Eslick, owner of Vista Consulting and longtime strategist of Central Valley politics. "Prolific fundraiser, represented that community for years, so he’s best positioned to win the seat."
Assemblymember Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, entered the race after another McCarthy ally, State Sen. Shannon Grove chose not to run. He initially said he would not. The problem for Fong is that he already filed paperwork to run for reelection to his assembly seat.
California’s Secretary of State ruled it was too late for Fong to change his plans, writing, "State law prohibits any candidate from filing nomination papers for more than one office at the same election."
Fong vowed to challenge the decision, his campaign writing: "I will fight the Secretary of State’s misguided decision and do whatever it takes to give voters in our community a real choice in this election because the voters choose our elected officials not Sacramento."
Jessica Millan Patterson, chairperson of the California Republican Party is accusing the Democrat elections chief of political foul play.
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"The Sacramento Democrat machine should not get to put their thumb on the scale and determine what Republican candidates who appropriately followed the law should get to run for office," Patterson wrote.
Nearly a dozen other people have declared their candidacy for the race including David Giglio. The Trump-aligned Republican threatened to sue if Fong was allowed into the race.
With or without Fong, the candidates need to get in front of voters and fast. Eslick says the condensed timeline favors those with name recognition and cash to burn.
"Resources are going to be key, because it’s a sprint," said Eslick. "Those that can self-fund those that can fundraise quickly, sort of always the case in a campaign, more important in a short campaign."
The Secretary of State will release a list of certified candidates on Dec. 28.