Within hours of Rep. Kevin McCarthy's surprise announcement Wednesday that he will resign from Congress by the end of the year, maneuvering was fast and furious to succeed him in California's soon-to-be-open 20th District.
Created in 1971 and renumbered several times after resulting redistricting every 10 years, the Bakersfield-based district has never had a Democrat congressman and is now considered the safest for Republicans in the state.
State Sen. Shannon Grove, former senate GOP leader and a fierce Donald Trump loyalist, is the first contender out of the box. While her outspoken support of the former president (including his claims about fraud in the 2020 election) make her controversial in some circles, Grove represents a senate district larger than the entire congressional district and is automatically formidable.
With 40 Senate districts in California and 52 House districts, state senators represent more turf than U.S. Representatives.
Soon expected to join the race is State Assemblyman Vince Fong, 44, privately dubbed "McCarthy's McCarthy." Just as McCarthy worked in the district office of Bill Thomas, his Republican predecessor in Congress (who now voices contempt for McCarthy in withering interviews) and then went to the Assembly, Fong worked in McCarthy's district office before moving to the Assembly.
California sources told Newsmax that Fong will have a public endorsement and full support from McCarthy, former House speaker.
Also mentioned for the seat is Republican Assemblyman Devon Mathis, 41, considered a more moderate Republican like Thomas. Mathis came under fire from the right for trying to remove the pro-family plank from the state GOP platform.
"And then there is Devin Nunes," Jon Fleischman, editor of the much-read "Flash Report" on California politics, told Newsmax, referring to the former GOP congressman from the neighboring district in central California who resigned in 2020 to head up the Trump Media and Technology Group (which runs the former president's Truth Social) in Sarasota, Florida.
"Devin would have to move to the district but it could be done," Fleischman said. "And he would likely have Trump's endorsement. Devin also still has $11 million in his old campaign account that he could use in a special election."
Nunes, 50, so far has said nothing about a potential candidacy, but he hasn't discouraged talk of a comeback.
Under a quirky portion of California election law, the filing deadline to run for Congress scheduled for Friday is automatically extended for five days if an incumbent decides to step down. All questions about candidates will be answered by Dec. 13.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to designate March 5 — the same day as the state's presidential primary — as the date of the special election in the 20th District. If no candidate wins a majority, the two top vote-getters, regardless of party, will meet in a June runoff.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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