Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced he is resigning from Congress at the end of this year, vacating his seat that represents parts of Fresno and Clovis with a year remaining in his term.
A special election is likely.
McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, will leave by the end of the year, he wrote in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal and said in an X, formerly Twitter, video.
“No matter the odds, or personal cost, we did the right thing. That may seem out of fashion in Washington these days, but delivering results for the American people is still celebrated across the country,” McCarthy wrote. “It is in this spirit that I have decided to depart the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways. I know my work is only getting started.”
First elected in 2006 after serving in the California Assembly, McCarthy ascended to the House GOP leadership. After serving as Minority Leader, McCarthy was elected Speaker in January, after an arduous 15 ballots.
He was ousted as Speaker in October, with eight renegade Republicans joining the Democrats to vote him out.
As the son of a firefighter from Bakersfield, my story is the story of America. For me, every moment came with a great deal of devotion and responsibility.
Serving you in Congress and as the 55th Speaker of the House has been my greatest honor. pic.twitter.com/jNnYQ8UO4k
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) December 6, 2023
Special Election Law
When the resignation is official, California election law allows Gov. Gavin Newsom 14 days to call a special election. The election would take place on a Tuesday, 126 to 140 days after the declaration.
“The Governor is required to set a date for the special election 14 days after the seat is vacated. However, if the seat is vacated during the last year of the term, after the nomination period has closed, then a special election is not required. We will have more to share once we have specifics from Rep. McCarthy about his planned departure,” Newsom communications director Erin Mellon said.
A primary would be held nine or 10 weeks prior, which could mean that the primary to fill the vacant seat through Jan. 3, 2025, could happen on the same ballot as the election for the full-term seat commencing that same day.
A special election is likely in May. The latest date Newsom could call for an election is May 21 (assuming he waits until Jan. 14 to call for the election; 140 days would be Sunday, June 2. Bringing it back to the prior Tuesday would be May 28, which is not allowed because it is a day after a holiday (Memorial Day).
That would make the latest day May 21. The primary would be March 19.
This year’s regularly scheduled primary is March 5. If Newsom wants to consolidate the special election primary with the regular primary, the runoff would need to be scheduled for May 7. That would require Newsom to declare the special election between Dec. 19 and Jan. 2.
If a candidate wins a majority of votes in the primary, he or she would be declared the winner, and no special general election would be needed. If not, the top two vote-getters would advance to the special general election.
If the special election primary and general take place on March 5 and May 7, respectively, the nomination window would be held between Dec. 23 and Jan. 12.
Fresno County Clerk James Kus said a consolidated March 5 election date would save the county up to $300,000 just for his office.
Who Will Run?
McCarthy’s vacancy will lead to two open elections — one to fill the remainder of the term; and the regular election for the next term.
Because the incumbent is no longer running, the deadline to file for the regular term is extended five days, from Friday, Dec. 8, to Wednesday, Dec. 13.
Several viable candidates could run for either seat. Former congressman Devin Nunes left office early himself at the end of 2021. The San Joaquin Valley Sun interviewed Nunes before the McCarthy announcement, asking about his interest. He did not give a full answer.
Nunes left office early to run the Trump Media & Technology Group, where Forbes reported he earns $750,000 a year.
Other potential candidates include state Senator Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, whose district roughly mirrors McCarthy’s. She is in the middle of her final four-year term in office.
Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, served as a McCarthy staffer before beginning his political career. Fong won his first election in 2016. He has filed for, and qualified for the ballot to run for his fifth term, the Kern County election office told GV Wire.
Another assemblyman, Devon Mathis, R-Porterville, announced he won’t run for a final legislative term this year. He told GV Wire last week he might be interested if the congressional seat was available.
A candidate can only run for one office at a time, meaning if Fong wanted to run for the full-term House seat, he would need to remove himself from the Assembly ballot.