Voters will elect their next representative for the vacant 20th Congressional District on March 19.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy resigned from Congress on Dec. 31, causing the vacancy. He also declined to run for re-election. The move prompted the need for a special election, which will be only two weeks after the regular primary.
Voters will decide the top two candidates to succeed McCarthy for the full-term seat — starting Jan. 3, 2025 — in the regular primary on March 5.
Two weeks later, voters could choose who heads to Washington to fill the remainder of the current term. If a candidate secures a majority of the vote (50% plus 1), the runoff will be canceled. If not, the top two candidates advance to a May 21 special election runoff. The winner of that race will become the congressmember through Jan. 3, 2025.
Gov. Gavin Newsom officially called for the special election on Monday.
The district spans Kern County — with 51% of the registered voters — Fresno (28% of voters), Tulare (15%), and Kings (7%) counties.
The district’s registered voters are 46% Republican, 27% Democrat, and 18% no party preference.
McCarthy, who was Speaker of the House from January through October of last year, was ousted from his leadership position when eight Republicans joined Democrats in a motion to vacate.
Eleven Running for Regular Election
Eleven candidates qualified for the regular March 5 primary. No matter what happens in the special election, the top two vote earners will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, fought his way onto the ballot. He initially filed to run for re-election for the Assembly, which would have precluded his run for Congress.
However, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled that the law that barred Fong from running for two different positions on the same ballot did not apply. Since then, several Democrats vowed to clarify the law, including Assemblywoman Gail Pellerin (D-Santa Cruz), who introduced AB 1784.
A spokesperson for Sec. of State Shirley Weber, said “We are working on the appeal as well as discussing other options to resolve this in the best interest of the voters.”
Several candidates running in the regular election, including Fong, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, and educator Marisa Wood, said they would also run in the special election.
“Our state and our nation is in crisis. We are facing chaos at the Southern Border, crippling high cost of living, threats to our energy industry, and a desperate need for more water infrastructure. The Central Valley needs proven, tested representation in Congress that can immediately get to work and deliver meaningful solutions to these issues,” Fong said in a statement Monday announcing his special election candidacy.
While Fong was allowed to run for both offices in the regular primary, whether he can hold both offices at the same time if he wins remains to be seen. Under the doctrine of incompatible offices, the answer is likely no — meaning Fong would have to resign from the Assembly if he wins either the special or regular election.
A Fong campaign spokesman said, “Vince intends to solely serve in Congress.”
Boudreaux also officially announced on Monday.
“I’m excited to continue sharing my vision for a safer, stronger Valley and look forward to earning the support of my neighbors to represent them in Congress for the balance of 2024,” Boudreaux said.
Fresno businessman Kyle Kirkland announced for the special.
“The need for a voice in Congress that represents the values and needs of our district has never been more important. I am running in this special election to be that voice. With over four decades of experience in identifying opportunities, solving problems, and giving back to my community, I am prepared to make our district’s needs heard in Washington and bring practical, action-oriented experience to solving our nation’s problems,” Kirkland said.
Here is a list of candidates for the March 5 regular primary:
- Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield
- Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, R-Springville
- Club One Casino owner Kyle Kirkland, R-Clovis
- Veteran Navy combat pilot and current businessman Matt Stoll, R-Visalia
- Businessman David Giglio, R-Madera
- California City Mayor Kelly Kulikoff, R-California City
- Businessman Stan Ellis, R-Bakersfield
- Educator and 2022 candidate Marisa Wood, D-Bakersfield
- Security guard Andy Morales, D-Fresno
- Businessman T.J. Esposito, no party preference-Bakersfield
- Eastern Kern APCD variance board member Ben Dewell, no party preference-Tehachapi
Endorsements Rolling In
Fong, who once was McCarthy’s district director, has picked up McCarthy’s endorsement. Other Fong endorsers include Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp and Clovis Mayor Lynne Ashbeck.
Boudreaux boasts the support of former Congresswoman Connie Conway, R-Visalia; Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Porterville, and Tulare County DA Tim Ward.
Giglio, who calls himself the “only America First candidate,” has the support of Trump figures such as Roger Stone and Gen. Michael Flynn.
Special Election Calendar
The official nomination period for the special election runs from Jan. 19 through Jan. 25. Candidates will be certified by Jan. 31. Qualifications, set by the U.S. Constitution, require a candidate to be at least 25, a citizen for seven years, and live in California by the date sworn into office.
The window to turn in “in-lieu petitions” (forms allowing a candidate to collect 322 signatures to avoid paying a filing fee of $1,740) starts today and continues through Jan. 16.
Regular ballots for the special election go out Feb. 19.
Newsom had until Jan. 14 to make the call. While Fresno County Clerk James Kus initially told GV Wire that consolidating the special election with the March 5 scheduled election could save money, that ultimately was not the case.
Because the regular election ballot was set, adding space for a special election with an unknown amount of candidates would diminish the cost savings. Also, printing deadlines would not allow for the two elections to be merged into a single ballot.
There was also concern about voter confusion caused by listing the same congressional seat on the ballot twice. However, that will be the case for a U.S. Senate seat. Both the regular term and the remainder of the term opening caused by the death of Dianne Feinstein are on the March 5 ballot.
The full special election calendar is here.