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Donald Trump endorses Vince Fong to replace Kevin McCarthy. Will it affect California race?

Gillian Brassil, The Fresno Bee on

Published in Political News

Several surprising endorsements — and the departure of a couple of candidates from the race — are shaking up the election to replace retired Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy, who retired in 2023 following his ousting as House Speaker. Fong is considered the front-runner in this race.

Former President Donald Trump entered the fray Tuesday with an endorsement of Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, in California’s 20th Congressional District, further boosting the Republican Assemblyman who has been the frontrunner in the race. Fong, 44, has also been endorsed by McCarthy, who retired in 2023 following his ousting as House Speaker.

Fong served as McCarthy’s district director for nearly a decade before joining the Legislature. But his congressional candidacy faces a legal challenge from California’s secretary of state.

Trump wrote on Truth Social, his social media site, that “now is the time to unite around Vince Fong and elect a true Republican to this seat.”

The endorsement comes after two high-profile figures in Kern County, where Bakersfield and Fong’s home base is, instead threw their support behind Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux. Two candidates on the March 5 primary ballot have also recently dropped out and endorsed Boudreaux, a Republican who has been in law enforcement in Tulare County for almost four decades.

 

Though it is too late for their names to be removed, “America First” businessman David Giglio and no-party-preference businessman T.J. Esposito said last week that they would no longer run for the seat.

“Despite initially expressing some concerns regarding Sheriff Boudreaux’s motives for entering this race, I can now say with complete certainty that he is a good man and is in this race for the right reasons,” Giglio said in a statement.

Another candidate for the 20th, Kern County entrepreneur Stan Ellis, endorsed Fong in December.

The thinning out of the race comes after Kern County’s Sheriff Donny Youngblood and State Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, backed Boudreaux, 56, over Fong in a surprise twist. Kern County, where Youngblood and Grove are based, is Fong’s home. Grove also worked with Fong in the Legislature, and Fong had initially left the door open for her to run, only announcing his bid for Congress after she had said she would not.

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