Assemblyman Vince Fong is not eligible to run for Congress, Sec. of State Shirley Weber announced Friday afternoon.
Fong, R-Bakersfield, initially filed to run for his fifth term, and qualified for the ballot on Nov. 29. When former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, announced he would not seek re-election, Fong said he would stick with the Assembly. Fong used to serve as McCarthy’s district director for winning election in 2016.
When potential front-runner state Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, announced she would not run on Sunday, Fong had a change of heart. He filed to run for the congressional seat on Monday.
The deadline for running was Dec. 8. For offices where the incumbent chose not to run, the deadline was extended five days until Dec. 13.
“Under state law, a candidate who has filed their declaration of candidacy is not permitted to withdraw as a candidate at that primary election. Mr. Fong filed his completed nomination documents for Assembly District 32 prior to the close of the December 8, 2023 filing deadline. Mr. Fong then submitted completed nomination documents for Congressional District 20 during the 5-day extension period triggered by the incumbent’s decision not to seek re-election. State law prohibits any candidate from filing nomination papers for more than one office at the same election,” Weber’s office wrote.
“As such, the Secretary of State’s office has determined that Mr. Fong’s filed nomination papers for Congressional District 20 were improperly submitted. Mr. Fong will not appear on the list of certified candidates for Congressional District 20 that our office will transmit to county election officials on candidates on December 28,” Weber’s office wrote.
Fong’s campaign team said they will take the matter to court.
“Today’s decision by the Secretary of State to unilaterally disqualify a county-qualified candidate for Congress is an unprecedented interference in the candidate filing process. County elections offices have full jurisdiction to qualify candidates for the ballot. The Secretary of State simply has a ministerial duty to certify the candidate lists and include ALL qualified candidates. Assemblyman Fong has qualified for the ballot and the voters of the 20th Congressional District deserve the opportunity to select the candidate of their choice. The Elections Code provides a five-day filing extension to ensure all prospective candidates may file for an office should the incumbent choose not to run, as is the case in this election. We fully intend to litigate this decision and will be filing a challenge in Superior Court imminently.”
The district has a 19-point registration advantage for Republicans over Democrats. The district is also heavily based in Kern County. The district also includes parts of Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties.
Who Else is Running
Other prominent names who filed in time to run for the now-open seat include Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, R-Springville; Club One Casino owner Kyle Kirkland, R-Fresno; and educator and 2022 candidate Marisa Wood, D-Bakersfield.
Another candidate, David Giglio, R-Madera, threatened legal action if Fong was allowed to run.