Bakersfield Republican Vince Fong Runs for Former Speaker McCarthy’s House Seat


‘Throughout his career, Vince has fought tirelessly to improve the quality of life in the Central Valley,’ Mr. McCarthy wrote in an endorsement letter.

Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Calif.) has entered the race to try and keep Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) seat in conservative hands, he announced on social media Dec. 11.

“It’s official,” Mr. Fong posted on X, formerly Twitter, Monday night. “Just took the oath to run for Congress and I look forward to meeting everyone throughout the 20th Congressional District!”
Mr. McCarthy, whom Mr. Fong worked for as district director, endorsed his former staffer to succeed him to represent the state’s Central Valley region.

“Throughout his career, Vince has fought tirelessly to improve the quality of life in the Central Valley,” Mr. McCarthy wrote in an endorsement letter distributed by Mr. Fong’s campaign Tuesday. “There is no one that I trust more to continue the fight for common-sense and conservative values in Washington DC. I am proud to endorse my friend Vince Fong for Congress.”

In an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal Dec. 6, Mr. McCarthy said he would leave his congressional seat at the end of the year, two months after becoming the first House speaker to be ousted from the role. He had served in California’s Central Valley for 17 years.

The district is almost guaranteed to favor a conservative candidate as one of California’s only remaining Republican-majority districts.

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Some have speculated another strong Bakersfield Republican, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, could also enter the race, making it competitive for the primary in March. The top two candidates, regardless of political party affiliation in the March 5 election, will move on to the November general election.

“Shannon Grove will destroy any human being dumb enough to run against her,” George Andrews, chief of staff to Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), posted on X Dec. 7. “Anyone who files against her deserves everything this is coming straight at them. Don’t say you didn’t get a warning.”

Ms. Grove has yet to announce any intentions to run for the office, however.

Other candidates running in the primary election for District 20 are Democrats John Burrows and Andy Morales, and Republicans Nathaniel Bruce, David Giglio, and Matthew Piatt. Independent Ben Dewell is also in the race for the seat.

A Bakersfield native, Mr. Fong, 44, has served in the state Assembly since December 2016, representing most of southern and eastern Kern County, including Bakersfield, the Tehachapi Mountains, the southern Sierra Nevada, and the northwestern Mojave Desert, and parts of Tulare County.

He started his career working on trade policy for former Congressman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) who was chair of the House Ways and Means Committee before retiring in 2007. He was succeeded by Mr. McCarthy.

Mr. Fong was the district director for Mr. McCarthy for nearly a decade, working on public policy issues for the region, he said in an online biography.

In another social media statement Monday night, Mr. Fong said after McCarthy announced his retirement, he and his family first thought the best way to serve their community was to continue his work in the state Assembly, but that changed.

“It is my strong belief that the Central Valley must continue to be represented by proven, conservative leaders in Congress,” Mr. Fong said in the statement posted Monday on Facebook and X. “In light of recent developments and in an attempt to unite our community in this critical moment in our nation’s history, I have decided to run for Congress in 2024.”

If elected, Mr. Fong said he would focus on issues impacting his constituents’ quality of life, defend the Central Valley’s water and energy resources, and work to end what he called “the chaos on the southern border.” He also said he planned to approve new border security measures and oppose new taxes, and the “reckless spending that has fueled inflation and caused our cost of living to soar.”

“I ask the community for their support and more importantly, their continued prayers,” he said in the statement.

Kern County is rich in agriculture and is the energy capital of California. The county is the seventh most productive oil-and-gas-producing county in the nation and provides almost a quarter of the state’s renewable energy.

In the state Assembly, Mr. Fong served as a chief Republican whip, a leadership position charged with mobilizing his party’s votes on important issues. He also started the California Military Installations Caucus, which he co-chairs along with Assemblyman Tom Lackey. The group brings legislative members together to visit military bases.

Mr. Fong is a lifelong resident of Kern County. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from the University of California–Los Angeles and a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University. He serves on the boards of the Jim Burke Education Foundation and Honor Flight Kern County, where he works to send World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials.


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