Water, energy, and the border are top priorities for congressional candidate Vince Fong.
“Our state and our nation is in crisis. And we need experienced, tested, and trusted viewership. And I believe I’m that candidate,” Fong (R-Bakersfield) said in an interview with GV Wire.
Voters in the 20th Congressional District — which includes parts of Kern, Fresno, Tulare, and Kings counties — will be voting in the race twice in two weeks. The regular primary takes place on March 5. Fong is among 11 candidates vying for the full-term seat starting next January.
Fong will also run in a March 19 special election for the short-term seat vacated by former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.
Fong and the Border
Fong says that securing the border is his top priority.
“We can’t have amnesty. And then we can’t begin to have that debate unless we secure the border first,” he said. “The American people are frustrated. Our country’s number one issue has to be securing the border. With what’s happening with individuals coming over, it’s a national security issue. And you look at cities across the country that are going bankrupt because of this growing problem and crisis.”
Recently, former President Donald Trump — whom Fong supports — called for mass deportations if elected again. Fong says he doesn’t endorse that policy.
“We don’t need to go there. I mean, I think that type of rhetoric isn’t something that we need to encourage. What we need to do is have a serious policy conversation about how we secure the border and do it effectively.”
Water and Energy
Fong said water and energy need to be defended.
“Water infrastructure, improving the way that we deliver water throughout our state and to our communities, that must continue to be a priority,” Fong said.
On energy, Fong said, “Not only does the Central Valley lead the nation in the world and food production, we also lead the nation and the world in energy production. We need energy security. We need to allow for more production of oil and natural gas in the Central Valley.”
Other priorities cited by Fong include forest management and aiding distressed hospitals.
Waited for Grove Before Congressional Run
McCarthy announced on Dec. 6 that he was quitting Congress by the end of the year. That left only a week for candidates to file to run.
On Dec. 7, Fong announced he would not seek the open congressional seat, opting to run for his fifth term for Assembly instead. He filed his paperwork in Kern County.
When apparent frontrunner Shannon Grove — a Bakersfield state Senator whose district is similar to Congressional District 20 — announced she would not run on Dec. 10, Fong had a change of heart. He announced he was back in the congressional race on Dec. 11.
Fong said Grove’s decision influenced his reversal. He called her “a friend.”
“When Senator Shannon Grove decided not to run, I believe that there needed to be a strong conservative voice that can unify the 20th Congressional District. And so that’s when I threw my name into the ring,” Fong said.
There was one problem — California law allows for a candidate to run for only one race at a time. And, it was too late for Fong to withdraw from running for Assembly.
He sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber to run for Congress, and a Sacramento County judge ruled in his favor.
Running for Assembly and Congress
Fong said that “voters have the right to decide” the congressional election. Weber, and even the judge making the ruling, expressed concern for voter confusion with Fong running for both Congress and Assembly.
“There are candidates jumping into the Assembly race through the write-in process. And so I believe that there will be choices for the voters to decide who they want to represent them in the Assembly,” Fong said.
Write-in candidates can file to run through Feb. 20. Kern County election officials tell GV Wire that as of Friday morning, two candidates have filed to run as write-ins for the 32nd Assembly District, which covers parts of Kern and Tulare counties. They are Bakersfield City Councilmember Ken Weir and Ian David Smith.
Fong says he’s already raised $300,000.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, R-Springville, is also running and may provide Fong with the toughest competition.
“He’s a good man. But when it comes to running for Congress and what our qualifications are, I believe that I’m the most experienced, tested, and trusted individual to represent our region,” Fong said.
Eleven candidates will be on the March 5 ballot for the full-term seat. The top-two vote earners, regardless of party or the special election result, advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
Several of the same candidates announced that they will run in the March 19 special election as well. If no candidate wins a majority in the special election primary, a run-off between the top-two vote-getters takes place on May 21.
Here is a list of candidates on the March 5 ballot:
- 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
Support of Israel and Ukraine
Fong said he supports Israel in its war against Hamas, a terrorist group that governs the Gaza Strip portion of Palestine.
“I clearly support Israel’s right to defend itself. We need to support our Democratic ally in the Middle East. What happened in October with the Hamas attacks is horrific. We need to do everything we can to ensure that that the terrorists are rooted out and destroyed,” Fong said.
That would include providing continued American financial aid to Israel.
Fong also supports Ukraine in its war against Russia but was less committed to offering financial resources.
“We need to understand what the funding is going to go to. Just just like anything else, we need to understand … we can’t fund an unending war in Ukraine, but we need to support the Ukrainian people,” Fong said.
Fong said he is a “pro-life legislator” when it comes to abortion policy.
“The policies that I’ve supported in the Assembly have been pro-life, and I will continue supporting pro-life policies in Congress,” Fong said.
Supports Speaker Johnson
Fong said he would support Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, who succeeded McCarthy in GOP leadership.
“He’s got a tough job. You look at what happened and challenges that Speaker McCarthy had. Speaker Johnson is working really hard to try to unite the conference,” Fong said. “It’s a very chaotic time in Washington, D.C. I think we’ve got to roll up our sleeves. It’s not going to be easy.”
Fong described himself as a “conservative Republican,” and supports Trump for president.
“President Trump’s policies work and improve the economy. We need conservative leadership. My record speaks for itself when you look at what I’ve done in Sacramento,” Fong said.
Authored Several Bills, but Few Became Law
Fong has authored 165 bills in his eight years in the Assembly. As a Republican, he has been in the super minority, thus only 22 of his bills have become law. Several of those bills are resolutions for an awareness month or renaming.
In the 2023 session, four of the 24 he introduced became law: wildfire grazing activity (AB 297), catalytic converter thefts (AB 641), making firearm training materials available in several languages (AB 724), and recognizing Valley Fever Awareness Month (ACR 103).
Several of his bills this session are pending in committee.