Grove out, uncertainty grows over McCarthy succession battle

Rumors of a change of tune from Bakersfield’s two likeliest GOP successors to Ex-Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s throne underscore a wild weekend of political jockeying.

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.
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