The weekend following Speaker Emeritus Kevin McCarthy’s (R–Bakersfield) announcement that he is opting to retire after his ouster by House Democrats and rogue Republicans has served as a chaotic shockwave to the San Joaquin Valley’s political landscape from northern Fresno County to southern Kern.
At the center of the chaos: State Sen. Shannon Grove (R–Bakersfield), long presumed to be one of – if not the – frontrunners to succeed McCarthy announcing she will forego a free shot at running for Congress in 2024.
Weekend buzz: Saturday, multiple sources – including a number in Kern County – told The Sun that Grove was leaning against running for the seat. Sunday, Grove announced it in an email to supporters.
- Grove’s current Senate seat is the closest legislative mirror to McCarthy’s Congressional district, stretching from southern Kern County through Tulare County and into north Fresno and Clovis.
- The word surrounding Grove’s potential exit from the McCarthy’s sweepstakes were paired with word that her legislative counterpart in Kern County, Asm. Vince Fong (R–Bakersfield), was reconsidering a bid for Congress and reaching out to backers to line up support.
- Thursday, one day after McCarthy’s announcement, Fong said he wanted to focus on California and seek a return to Sacramento, noting that the Golden State was “in crisis.”
What she’s saying: In a statement to supporters, Grove thanked supporters for their pressing her to consider a candidacy for Congress.
- “I am humbled and truly blessed by the outpouring of support I have received over the last several days. Although it would be a tremendous honor, after prayerful consideration and thoughtful discussions with my family, I have decided I will not seek election to Congress in 2024,” Grove said in the statement.
- “I will honor my commitment to those who elected me to the California State Senate, and I will continue to fight for the needs of Central Valley residents.”
Team Fong denies: Despite growing claims out of Kern County of a shift in candidacy, a spokesman for Fong’s political operation told The Sun on Saturday there was no change in posture from Thursday’s announcement.
- Fong did not respond to inquiries.
Legal issues arise: Despite the denial, Fong – and a number of other would-be 2024 contenders – face a key stumbling block, courtesy of California’s byzantine elections laws.
- California’s elections code and a California Supreme Court decision in Keane v. Smith bars candidates from running for two voter-nominated offices simultaneously.
- As such, candidates vying for county, state, or Federal offices would be blocked from running if they filed declaration of candidacy for a different elected office, qualified to run, and the filing deadline closed.
- For offices – such as Fong’s – which feature a qualified incumbent running for re-election, the filing deadline concluded on Friday, Dec. 8.
- California does not allow candidates to withdraw their declaration of candidacy for voter-nominated offices once the period has concluded.
Also kicking the tires: Former State Sen. Andy Vidak (R–Orosi) openly mused about mounting a Congressional bid on Facebook late Friday night.
- Vidak’s public floating of a bid attracted an online tussle with a former Grove staffer over Vidak’s decision not to run against Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D–Bakersfield) in 2022, four years after she ousted him from office during the 2018 Blue Wave.
- Multiple sources told The Sun on Sunday, that Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux is “seriously considering” a bid for Congress, with a potential decision set to be imminent as he and other contenders face a Wednesday deadline to file to run.