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Why California Lawmaker Vince Fong Won Special Election to Finish Ousted House Speaker McCarthy’s Term

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Image Credit: CNN

California State Assembly member Vince Fong secured a decisive victory in a special election, taking over the remainder of former U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s term. Fong, backed by former President Donald Trump, will serve in the 20th Congressional District until January.

Fong, a political ally of McCarthy and endorsed by the former speaker, emerged victorious against fellow Republican and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux. This election, set in California’s Central Valley farm belt, was closely watched, partly because of Trump’s involvement, making it a potential barometer of his influence as he prepares for an expected rematch against President Joe Biden in November.

“With the campaign over, the real work now begins,” Fong stated, emphasizing his commitment to border security, small business support, and critical investments in water storage for the region’s agriculture. The exact date of Fong’s swearing-in remains undecided, as it is the prerogative of current House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Voter turnout appeared light for this unusual May election, with mail-in voting having commenced a month prior. Trump had endorsed Fong in February, describing him as “a true Republican.” Boudreaux, however, had notable endorsements too, including support from Richard Grenell, a former acting director of national intelligence under Trump, and Republican state Senator Shannon Grove from Bakersfield, Fong’s home area.

Republicans currently hold 11 of California’s 52 U.S. House seats. Fong’s victory keeps McCarthy’s former district under GOP control, raising the Republican tally to 12 seats within the state and bolstering the party’s slim majority in Congress by a single vote. Presently, the House comprises 217 Republicans, 213 Democrats, and five vacancies, including McCarthy’s former seat.

This special election covers the remaining time in McCarthy’s term. Fong and Boudreaux are expected to face off again in November for a full two-year term in the district. The special election’s winner, Fong, will have the incumbency advantage in the forthcoming contest.

In his concession statement, Boudreaux acknowledged Fong’s victory, thanking his supporters and indicating his intention to continue his campaign efforts for November. “California faces a crime crisis unlike any other in its history. That’s why I will be stepping up the fight for a safer Valley and safer California,” Boudreaux declared.

The dual appearance of Fong and Boudreaux on two House ballots this year—the March 5 statewide primary for the full House term and the March 19 primary for the special election to complete McCarthy’s term—may have caused some voter confusion.

Both conservative Republicans and Trump supporters, Fong and Boudreaux share similar policy stances. Boudreaux has emphasized his extensive law enforcement experience and pledged to strengthen border security. Similarly, Fong has vowed to “end the chaos” at the Mexico border while also focusing on the water and energy needs of the farm belt.

Fong, a former McCarthy aide, enjoyed significant advantages in the race, including high-profile endorsements and substantial campaign funds. In the March primary, Fong secured 42% of the vote compared to Boudreaux’s 26%, with the remaining votes split among other candidates. Additionally, Fong hails from the district’s most populous area, Kern County, and out-raised Boudreaux by a ratio of about 3 to 1 in campaign funds, as per federal records through the end of March.

McCarthy’s unprecedented ousting from the House speaker position led to a turbulent race to fill his seat, revealing internal party rivalries. McCarthy actively supported Fong’s candidacy, with a political action committee linked to him channeling over $700,000 into the 20th District race to bolster Fong’s campaign.

Fong’s win marks a significant moment in California politics, reinforcing the influence of high-profile endorsements and strategic campaign funding in determining election outcomes.

As reported by AP News in their recent article  

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