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California special election to replace McCarthy heads to runoff, extending House GOP vacancy another 2 months

Vince Fong will face off against a fellow Republican, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, in a May special election runoff to replace Kevin McCarthy.

A special election in California to replace former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the House ended in a runoff Tuesday, meaning there will be another two months of vacancy in the heavily Republican-leaning district as the GOP holds onto a razor-thin majority in the lower chamber of Congress. 

State Assemblyman Vince Fong, a former McCarthy aide endorsed by both McCarthy and former President Trump, failed to reach the 50% threshold on Tuesday, meaning he, Republican Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux,, and Democrat Marisa Wood will compete in a May 21 runoff election in California's 20th Congressional District. 

Fong received 42% of votes compared to Boudreaux’s 24%, with 98% of votes counted, The Associated Press reported. 

The district, which cuts through the Central Valley farm belt, including parts of Bakersfield and Fresno, is the most strongly Republican House seat in heavily Democratic California. Trump largely carried CA-20 in 2020 and McCarthy represented the district from 2007 until his resignation in late 2023. 


Because of Trump’s involvement, the race will be watched as a bellwether for the former president’s viability as he heads toward a likely rematch against President Biden in November.

McCarthy’s dramatic fall in the House – he is the only speaker in history to be voted out of the job – left behind a messy race to succeed him that has included an ongoing lawsuit and exposed rivalries within the GOP. With nine names on the ballot, it appeared unlikely any candidate would surpass that threshold to claim the seat outright.

In California's jungle primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election. 

In the recent March 5 primary for the full 20th District term that begins in January, Fong and Boudreaux had already advanced to the November election in that contest. Tuesday's special election was meant to determine who will serve out the rest of McCarthy's term that ends at the start of next year. 


Republicans occupy only 11 of the state’s 52 House seats, with the one held by McCarthy currently vacant since he resigned. 

His resignation came after McCarthy was historically booted from the speakership after a motion brought by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. 

Eight House Republicans broke party lines in voting to oust McCarthy. 

Trump endorsed Fong in February, calling him "a true Republican." Boudreaux’s supporters include Ric Grenell, a former acting director of national intelligence in the Trump administration, and Republican state Sen. Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, Fong’s home turf.

Fong and Boudreaux occupy much of the same policy terrain, and both are Trump-supporting conservatives.

There is, however, an insider-outsider aspect to the race: Fong is McCarthy’s handpicked choice and a product of his political operation, while the sheriff is not.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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