Connect with us

Politics

McCarthy’s constituents ‘don’t blame him,’ but worry about losing their voice in Congress

Published

on

McCarthy’s constituents ‘don’t blame him,’ but worry about losing their voice in Congress

Billie Jo Medders can recite her history with Kevin McCarthy like a well-worn catechism. Before he was a congressman, before he was California’s first Republican speaker of the House, he was the little boy who attended preschool with her daughter, the 13-year-old with a mouth full of braces, the newlywed who met his wife at Bakersfield High School.

“And then he came into our office,” said Medders, who worked for three decades for then-Rep. Bill Thomas, McCarthy’s predecessor in Congress. And the rest is history.

Beneath twinkling Christmas lights at a downtown Bakersfield bar on Wednesday, Medders and the Republican women seated around her were still processing McCarthy’s announcement earlier that day that the longtime Central Valley representative is retiring from Congress by the end of the year.

The decision prompted sadness, but not surprise, in McCarthy’s home district, the most Republican in California. To his constituents in Bakersfield and the surrounding area, the writing had been on the wall for the last two months, after bitter infighting among House Republicans led to McCarthy’s historic, humiliating ouster as the 55th speaker of the House.

Advertisement

Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield speaks to reporters hours after he was ousted as speaker of the House on Oct. 3.

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

“I am sad to see him retire, because I’m selfish, and I want people like Kevin McCarthy in Washington, D.C.,” said Annette Londquist, the head of Bakersfield Republican Women, a club that counts McCarthy among its 515 members. “But with everything that’s happened to him, I understand that it would be hard to continue.”

McCarthy’s announcement Wednesday capped a tumultuous year in the House, where Republicans have a razor-thin majority and discord among party members. McCarthy endured 14 failed votes in his quest to become speaker before he compromised with his hard-line GOP opponents, agreeing to restore a rule that made it easy for any House member to call for a vote to remove him from the top post.

Advertisement

That compromise clinched McCarthy’s victory in January and led to his ouster in October. Angered by his decision to work with Democrats to stave off a government shutdown, a group of eight hard-right Republicans led by Florida’s Rep. Matt Gaetz were joined by Democrats in a historic vote to remove McCarthy as speaker.

The move prompted fury in Bakersfield, where McCarthy, known simply as “Kevin,” is beloved by many.

“I don’t blame him,” said Jacquie Sullivan, Bakersfield’s now-retired longest-running city councilmember, of McCarthy’s decision. She sat with Medders on Wednesday night at a watch party for the GOP primary presidential debate. “He was so mistreated.”

Medders added: “’Round here, Matt Gaetz is not a good name to mention. He’s just upset the whole apple cart, you know? Who knows what’s gonna happen next?”

Several people gather in chairs near at large-screen television in a warmly lit bar

Members of Bakersfield Republican Women and others shared their reactions to McCarthy’s decision Wednesday while attending a GOP presidential debate watch party at a local bar.

(Alex Horvath / Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

During McCarthy’s grueling quest for the speaker’s gavel in January, Bakersfield resident Kathy Scrivner was on her knees in front of the television, praying that her fellow congregant at Valley Baptist Church would be victorious.

Scrivner’s eyes filled with tears when she learned McCarthy was retiring. But, she said, she understands the stresses of serving in public office: Her son is on the Kern County Board of Supervisors, her sister is Kern County’s district attorney, and Scrivner herself is a Kern High School District trustee.

“I don’t think that regular laypeople know how difficult it is,” she said. “It’s hard, being criticized day and night.”

McCarthy is the third congressional leader that California has lost this year. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco stepped down from the House’s Democratic leadership in January, and longtime Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein died in September. Just two Californians still hold leadership positions: Reps. Pete Aguilar of Redlands, chair of the House’s Democratic Caucus; and Ted Lieu of Torrance, House Democrats’ vice chair.

Advertisement

McCarthy has represented the Bakersfield region in Congress since 2007, taking over for Thomas, who had served for 28 years. So the coming change is unusual and, for some, unsettling.

“He’s said he’s fighting for us, he’s fighting, he’s fighting — and now he quit,” said Greg Perrone, 59, president of the Greater Bakersfield Republican Assembly, the more conservative GOP club in town. He said he is neither “a McCarthy fan” nor a “McCarthy foe,” and doesn’t blame the congressman for being “probably a little battle-weary,” but chided McCarthy for not finishing out his term.

“He’s leaving an open seat, so now we have no voice,” Perrone said.

Perrone said he had hoped McCarthy would use his influence and fundraising prowess to continue to push Republican priorities through Congress.

No date has been set for a special election to serve the last year of McCarthy’s current term. Candidates running for the full two-year term that starts in January 2025 have until next Wednesday to file paperwork.

Advertisement

“I’m hearing from everybody,” said Cathy Abernathy, a Republican strategist and consultant for McCarthy who gave him his first job in politics as an intern in Thomas’ office.

Abernathy is a consultant for several possible candidates for McCarthy’s seat, including state Sen. Shannon Grove, who has not announced whether she’ll run. Assemblymember Vince Fong, who previously worked in Thomas’ and McCarthy’s offices, said Thursday he would not vie for the congressional seat.

McCarthy’s departure will also be a rude awakening for Republican leaders across the U.S., said Jim Brulte, former chair of the California Republican Party.

The road to the House majority runs through New York and California, Brulte said. McCarthy’s biggest legacy will be helping to deliver the House majority for the Republicans in 2010 and again in 2022, raising money and selecting diverse candidates who were good political fits for their unique districts, he said. McCarthy understood, Brulte said, that “if you don’t have the majority, you can’t govern.”

A handful of congressional districts in California have been in a tug-of-war for years between the two major parties. Democrats flipped seven seats in 2018, and in 2020 Republicans took four back.

Advertisement

New leadership in the House, including a new speaker, Mike Johnson (R-La.), will have to spend time boning up on the races and the swing districts in the Golden State that McCarthy “instinctively knew, because he’s been involved in California politics for over a quarter of a century,” Brulte said.

“It’s a huge loss to California,” he said. “And it’s a huge loss to the Republicans in Congress. Even the Republicans in Congress that didn’t appreciate Kevin may come to appreciate him a lot more in December of 2024.”

McCarthy, who grew up in Bakersfield, won his last election by more than 34 percentage points. Former Bakersfield Councilmember Mark Salvaggio, 73, an independent, said McCarthy would have overwhelmingly won reelection again — but, he said, getting ousted as speaker was “embarrassing” and “humiliating.”

A regular letter writer to the Bakersfield Californian, Salvaggio said letters to the editor have become increasingly critical of McCarthy in recent years. Despite the congressman’s relative popularity in his home district, few people jumped to defend him, Salvaggio noted. Others criticized the congressman for spending little time with his constituents, he said — particularly compared with his new neighbor in Congress, Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), who holds frequent town hall meetings in his district.

But McCarthy “has been detached from his district,” Salvaggio said. “I recognized that Kevin becoming speaker was good for his district and for fellow Republicans in the state … but it never panned out because of his short tenure.”

Advertisement

At the debate watch party, Medders — years after she and McCarthy worked on the same team doing constituent services for Thomas — still proudly recalls how she helped the onetime speaker get elected to Congress, recording his first radio advertisement and eventually serving as his delegate appointee for Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign in 2012.

“The world is his oyster,” Medders said of McCarthy; after he leaves office, “he will be able to do whatever he wants.”

Nelson and contributing Times staff writer Seema Mehta reported from Los Angeles.

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Politics

Trump maintains grip on GOP nod with victory in North Dakota caucuses

Published

on

Trump maintains grip on GOP nod with victory in North Dakota caucuses

Join Fox News for access to this content

Plus special access to select articles and other premium content with your account – free of charge.

Please enter a valid email address.

By entering your email and pushing continue, you are agreeing to Fox News’ Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which includes our Notice of Financial Incentive. To access the content, check your email and follow the instructions provided.

Having trouble? Click here.

Former President Donald Trump inched closer to becoming the Republican nominee for president with another primary victory Monday, this time with a win in the North Dakota caucuses.

Trump won North Dakota’s caucuses, finishing first in voting conducted at 12 caucus sites, according to an Associated Press call of the race shortly after polls closed Sunday, earning the former president 29 delegates. 

Advertisement

The win continues Trump’s dominant streak in this year’s GOP primary races, marking the 9th win in 10 tries for the former president as he closes in on representing the Republican Party for a third time. 

The only contest Trump has lost so far was last weekend’s primary in Washington D.C.

TRUMP WINS THE MICHIGAN GOP PRIMARY, BRINGING HIM ONE STEP CLOSER TO SECURING REPUBLICAN NOMINATION

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he departs after speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2024, in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 24, 2024.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The win comes as Trump’s campaign has largely shifted its attention to the general election and an all-but-certain rematch of 2020’s matchup against President Biden, with the Trump campaign telling Fox News Digital before this week’s slate of contests that the primary race is “over.”

Advertisement

“Republican voters have delivered resounding wins for President Trump in every single primary contest and this race is over,” a spokesperson for the campaign said. “Our focus is now on Joe Biden and the general election.”

Nikki Haley, left, and Donald Trump, right

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, left, will be the only remaining candidate challenging former President Donald Trump, right.

DC PRIMARY REPRESENTS HALEY’S BEST CHANCE YET TO BEAT TRUMP

The former president already had a commanding lead heading into this week, holding ten times as many delegates as Haley before earning 29 in Monday’s North Dakota win.

The loss marked another blow to Haley’s campaign, though the former South Carolina governor has vowed to stay in the race as long as there is a path to victory.

Nikki Haley

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks at a rally during the District of Columbias Republican presidential primary at the Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Friday, March 1, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Advertisement

That path will likely have to start appearing on Super Tuesday, where voters in 15 more states will head to the polls to determine who gets a share of 865 total delegates. While neither candidate can reach the needed 1,215 delegates to secure the nomination this week, continued dominance by Trump would give Haley a near impossible uphill climb. 

For its part, the Haley Campaign has invested heavily in a Super Tuesday turnaround, announcing a seven-figure ad buy earlier this month meant to target many of the states on the Tuesday slate.

Continue Reading

Politics

Column: For the second time in days, the Supreme Court helped make another Trump presidency possible

Published

on

Column: For the second time in days, the Supreme Court helped make another Trump presidency possible

The Supreme Court held Monday that a single state such as Colorado can’t prohibit Donald Trump from running for president as an insurrectionist under the 14th Amendment. It was the second time in less than a week that the court provided a crucial boost to the former president’s campaign to return to the White House.

The court’s strong inclination to restore Trump to the ballot was clear from the oral argument in the case last month, and indeed the justices reversed the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously. The “per curiam,” or “by the court,” opinion further emphasized that the court was speaking with a single voice.

But the justices were far from united on the rationale for reversal. There was a clear 5-4 split with two concurrences, one by the liberal justices — Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — and the other by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

The narrow, right-wing majority within the unanimous decision held that congressional legislation is needed to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits elected officials who engage in insurrection from holding office again. This clearly restricts the amendment’s force going forward.

All four of the concurring justices parted from requiring a federal law to enforce Section 3. For them, it was sufficient that the Colorado decision would impose an inconsistent and intolerable patchwork in which a major presidential candidate appeared on the ballot in some states but not in others. As the court wrote, “Nothing in the Constitution requires that we endure such chaos.”

Advertisement

The opinion signed by the three Democratic-appointed justices, though styled as a concurrence, was fairly sharp in its differences with the majority. Most pointedly, they quoted Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s dissent in Bush vs. Gore, the 2000 opinion that remains a bête noire for liberals: “What it does today, the Court should have left undone.”

Barrett similarly felt that her five fellow conservatives had overreached. But she sounded a conciliatory note, writing that “this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency.”

So although the court was able to come together as to the result, surely a priority for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., its political divisions were evident just beneath the surface. It was no kumbaya moment.

In cases of this magnitude and political stakes, the court is better off when it’s unanimous or nearly so. Kagan and Jackson, who seemed to be leaning toward reversal at oral argument, and even Sotomayor, whose inclination was less clear, thereby stepped up in the service of the court’s institutional interest. Notwithstanding their fundamental differences with the majority, their concurrences permitted the court to conclude with a feel-good paragraph noting that “All nine Members of the Court agree with that result.” They were good soldiers and team players, which may engender goodwill with Roberts going forward.

Of course, with the rock-ribbed conservatives to the chief justice’s right, there may be scant prospect of similar goodwill. The court’s right has been in lockstep on ideologically divisive matters, and there’s no reason to expect that to change.

Advertisement

Indeed, after last week’s decision to review the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ rejection of Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for Jan. 6, today’s decisive ruling is a second substantial victory for the president who appointed three of the justices.

Some observers speculated that the justices would view the two Trump cases, on immunity and the 14th Amendment, as a pair that they would split. Ruling for Trump on the Colorado case and against him on the Jan. 6 prosecution would communicate a sort of neutrality.

It’s difficult to see it that way now, though. Not that the court will hold that Trump is immune from the charges growing out of his perfidious attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 eleciton. The best he can hope for is a remand to the trial court and eventual loss on the merits of his immunity claim.

But the court last week gave Trump the invaluable gift of time, suspending the proceedings in Judge Tanya Chutkan’s U.S. District Court for at least several months, leaving serious doubt as to whether the case can be tried before the election.

If the polls are to be believed, a criminal conviction would likely persuade a significant number of voters to abandon Trump. That means the court’s decision to enter the fray and delay the case — when it could have let the D.C. Circuit’s thorough, bipartisan opinion stand — is probably the most important assist it could have given to Trump’s campaign.

Advertisement

Moreover, while the court acted with some dispatch in the immunity case, it was nowhere near as quick as in other exigent cases. That includes the one it decided Monday, rushing to clarify the electoral landscape just in time for Colorado and other states to vote on Super Tuesday.

There’s plenty of room for debate as to why the court acted as it did in each case. But there’s no doubt about the impact. Should the country awaken on Nov. 6 to the horrifying prospect of a second Trump presidency, history will record that the Supreme Court played a critical role.

Harry Litman is the host of the “Talking Feds” podcast. @harrylitman

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Politics

Trump says Supreme Court ruling in Colorado case is 'unifying and inspirational'

Published

on

Trump says Supreme Court ruling in Colorado case is 'unifying and inspirational'

Join Fox News for access to this content

Plus special access to select articles and other premium content with your account – free of charge.

Please enter a valid email address.

By entering your email and pushing continue, you are agreeing to Fox News’ Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which includes our Notice of Financial Incentive. To access the content, check your email and follow the instructions provided.

Having trouble? Click here.

EXCLUSIVE: Former President Trump told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview that the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling Monday is “both unifying and inspirational,” while stressing the importance of the high court’s pending decision in the issue of presidential immunity. 

The Supreme Court sided unanimously with the 2024 GOP frontrunner in his challenge to Colorado’s attempt to kick him off the 2024 primary ballot. 

Advertisement

The high court ruled in favor of Trump’s arguments in the case, which will impact the status of efforts in several other states to remove the likely GOP nominee from their respective ballots. 

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR TRUMP BALLOT REMOVAL CASE OUT OF COLORADO

The court considered for the first time the meaning and reach of Article 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars former officeholders who “engaged in insurrection” from holding public office again. Challenges have been filed to remove Trump from the 2024 ballot in over 30 states.

Former President Trump told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview that the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling Monday is “both unifying and inspirational.” (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

“A great win for America. Very, very important!” Trump told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview Monday morning. 

Advertisement

“Equally important for our country will be the decision that they will soon make on immunity for a president — without which, the presidency would be relegated to nothing more than a ceremonial position, which is far from what the founders intended,” Trump told Fox News Digital. “No president would be able to properly and effectively function without complete and total immunity.” 

He added, “Our country would be put at great risk.” 

Former President Donald Trump

The Supreme Court sided unanimously with former President Trump in his challenge to Colorado’s attempt to kick him off the 2024 primary ballot. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

SUPREME COURT DECISION ON CASE BARRING TRUMP FROM COLORADO’S 2024 BALLOT COULD ARRIVE AS EARLY AS MONDAY

The Supreme Court last week agreed to review whether Trump has immunity from prosecution in special counsel Jack Smith’s election interference case. 

The justices moved to fast-track the appeal, and will hear oral arguments beginning April 22, with a ruling on the merits expected by late June. 

Advertisement

Trump’s trial stemming from Smith’s investigation has been put on hold pending resolution of the matter. 

The decision will also impact Smith’s classified records case against the president. That trial has not yet been scheduled. 

As for Monday’s decision, Trump described it as a “big win for America.” 

“Today’s decision, especially the fact that it was unanimous, 9-0, is both unifying and inspirational for the people of the United States of America,” he told Fox News Digital. 

Advertisement

In its unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that “states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office.” 

“But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency,” the Supreme Court wrote.

Continue Reading

Trending