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Latest news, analysis and information from the 2024 presidential, state, and local elections by the KVPR newsroom and news partners.

Congressional match between Fong, Boudreaux is set. But first, a Tuesday special election

Assemblymember Vince Fong (left), and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux (right).
Vince Fong is the top vote-getter in the race to replace Kevin McCarthy. He and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux will advance to the November General Election.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Republican Assemblymember Vince Fong and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux will face off in November in the race to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

With Democrat Marisa Wood not making the cut, voters in the ruby red district that stretches from Bakersfield to Clovis will choose between two GOP candidates in the General Election.

Boudreaux will have to overcome a 16-point deficit to catch up to Fong, who holds 41% of the vote so far. The battle between the two candidates could renew tensions in the party that led members of the far-right Freedom Caucus to oust McCarthy from the leadership position in the first place.

“I think what we're going to see is both candidates trending towards the right, each trying to argue that they are more conservative than the other and very possibly more supportive and loyal to Donald Trump than the other,” said Tom Holyoke, a political science professor at Fresno State who is watching the race closely.

Fong is widely seen as McCarthy’s heir apparent and has his endorsement, along with the backing of another powerful Republican: Former President Donald Trump.

Those endorsements undoubtedly helped the Bakersfield assemblymember in a district that overwhelmingly supported Trump in the 2020 election.

“I look forward to continuing this momentum through the March 19th special election and all the way to November,” Fong said in a statement shortly after the primary election.

If Fong is elected to the House, the whole process could repeat itself later this year to fill the 32nd Assembly District seat he currently holds but would have to vacate.

In the meantime, ballots have been mailed to voters for another contest.

Special election on March 19

As candidates secure their spots in the November ballot, candidates still need to go through a special election on Tuesday to determine who will fill McCarthy’s seat for the remainder of 2024.

The longtime representative resigned from his district early at the end of last year after members of his own party joined Democrats to remove him from the powerful speaker position. Local Republicans criticized McCarthy for not giving potential successors enough time to strategize before announcing his decision to leave Washington.

Fong initially declined to run but changed his mind when another state lawmaker, Senator Shannon Grove, announced she wouldn’t campaign for the higher office.

The March 5th Primary and Tuesday’s special election will mark the end of a chaotic, months-long scramble between nearly a dozen candidates vying to replace McCarthy – once the top Republican in Congress.

If Fong gets more than 50% of the vote on Tuesday, he’s expected to exit the state assembly and head to Washington, D.C.

If no candidate reaches that threshold, the special election goes to a runoff in May. Fong, Boudreaux and Wood are all on the Tuesday ballot. If no clear winner emerges, 20th District voters could see up to four elections for one seat this year.

“Because it’s so confusing, I imagine turnout will be exceptionally low,” Holyoke says of the March 19th Special Election.

Residents can drop off their ballots at secured dropboxes, or vote in person at designated polling stations in the district.

Joshua Yeager is a Report For America corps reporter covering Kern County for KVPR.