Special election in Kevin McCarthy's district will advance to May runoff

 March 20, 2024

Kevin McCarthy's former California House seat will remain vacant for a while longer after an inconclusive special election on Tuesday. 

With no candidate getting a majority of the vote, frontrunner Vince Fong, a state legislator and ex-McCarthy staffer with the backing of McCarthy and former President Trump, will advance to the runoff on May 21.

California uses a non-partisan primary system, in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of their party.

Runoff in McCarthy's district

It's not yet clear who will face Fong in the runoff, but it's most likely going to be Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, his most noteworthy opponent in McCarthy's San Joaquin Valley district.

Fong and Boudreaux were the top two vote-getters in the state's March 5 primary, which decided who would advance to the general election for a full term. The special election held Tuesday was to decide who serves the remainder of McCarthy's term, which finishes in January.

The state's March 5 primary is still being tallied weeks later, owing to a shift to mail-in voting.

McCarthy's district is the most conservative in a state dominated by Democrats. While his resignation in December shrunk his party's narrow majority, Republicans will hold onto his seat, with Fong and Boudreaux already chosen as the general election candidates.

McCarthy was ousted from House leadership last year in a historic right-wing mutiny led by Matt Gaetz (R-FL), after months of intraparty conflict over federal spending.

Primary exposes divisions as Trump soars

Tuesday's primaries showed signs of continued division within the party even as President Trump continued to dominate, further establishing his status as the GOP's leader and presumptive presidential nominee.

In Illinois, a Trump-backed incumbent, Mike Bost, barely defeated hard-right challenger Darren Bailey, who previously lost the state's governor race in 2022.

Bailey had been backed by Gaetz as part of his ongoing feud with the McCarthy wing of the party.

McCarthy's successor, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), has made little progress on reducing federal spending, but backlash from the right has fizzled out to a significant degree.

Congressional leaders agreed to a spending deal for the fiscal year Tuesday that preserves the $1.6 trillion figure that McCarthy negotiated with Biden during last year's debt limit battle.

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