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By Mae Slater on
 March 21, 2024

Kevin McCarthy's replacement will be decided in a run-off election

California's political landscape has been thrown into an unexpected frenzy with the recent special election for the 20th Congressional District.

Fox News reported that a runoff election is now mandated to fill the vacancy left by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, pushing the decision two more months into the future. The three-way race will be one to watch as Republicans work to hold onto the House of Representatives.

The special election was necessitated by the departure of Kevin McCarthy from the House, leading to a heated contest in the heavily Republican-leaning district. With the GOP holding onto a slim majority in Congress, the stakes couldn't be higher. Vince Fong, Mike Boudreaux, and Marisa Wood emerged as the key figures to compete in the upcoming May 21 runoff.

A Battle for McCarthy's Legacy

The departure of Kevin McCarthy, who had represented the 20th District since 2007, marked a significant moment in California's political history. His resignation in late 2023, following a historic removal as Speaker of the House, set the stage for a contentious race to fill his shoes.

Vince Fong, a state Assemblyman and a former aide to McCarthy was seen as the favorite, having been endorsed by both McCarthy and former President Donald Trump. Despite this high-profile support, Fong fell short of the 50% threshold needed for an outright win, securing only 42% of the votes with 98% counted.

Trump's influence looms large over the election, with his endorsement of Fong in February highlighting the former president's ongoing impact on Republican politics. "A true Republican," Trump said of Fong, underlining the significance of his support in a district Trump himself carried in the 2020 elections.

Republican Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and Democrat Marisa Wood also made significant strides in the election, showcasing the diverse political dynamics at play. Boudreaux, with 24% of the votes, and Wood, advancing to the runoff, reflect a district engaged in a deeper conversation about its future direction.

Inside the GOP: Fong vs. Boudreaux

The rivalry between Fong and Boudreaux has become a microcosm of the broader GOP conflicts, pitting insider against outsider in a contest for the heart of the party. Both candidates, while sharing similar policy positions and support for Trump, offer distinct visions for the district's future, reflective of their differing relationships with McCarthy and the party establishment.

The race, further complicated by a lawsuit and internal GOP rivalries, has become about more than just filling a vacant seat; it's about the direction of the Republican Party in California and beyond. This internal strife comes at a time when the GOP is navigating through a razor-thin majority in Congress, making the outcome of this election all the more critical.

The Jungle Primary System in Play

California's jungle primary system, wherein the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation, has added an extra layer of intrigue to the election. This system facilitated the advancement of Fong and Boudreaux to the November election for the full term beginning in January, before the special election for the remainder of McCarthy's term was called.

The district, including parts of Bakersfield and Fresno, stands as the strongest Republican House seat in California, underscoring the significance of the election not only for the GOP but for the state's political landscape at large.


  • The runoff election for California's 20th Congressional District will determine the successor to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
  • Vince Fong, endorsed by McCarthy and Trump, competes against Mike Boudreaux and Marisa Wood in a contest reflecting broader GOP conflicts.
  • The election highlights Trump's enduring influence in Republican politics and the internal dynamics shaping the party's future.
  • The jungle primary system has set the stage for a showdown that could signal the direction of Republican leadership in one of its stronghold districts.
  • The outcome of this election carries significant implications for the GOP's slim majority in Congress and the party's positioning ahead of future electoral battles.
Written By:
Mae Slater

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