Fong, Mathis bow out of sweepstakes to succeed McCarthy

The two California legislators made quick work of speculation that they would seek to replace ex-Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Congress.

Two central California lawmakers perceived as potential contenders to succeed Speaker Emeritus Kevin McCarthy (R–Bakersfield) have bowed out of the race a mere day after the Bakersfield GOPer’s retirement announcement.

Thursday afternoon, Asm. Vince Fong (R–Bakersfield) opened the discussion with an announcement that he would forego a Congressional bid for his mentor’s seat, opting instead to run for re-election to the Assembly.,

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The big picture: With rumors swirling leading up to McCarthy’s retirement announcement yesterday, Fong was floated by Washington insiders as one of the top contenders for the 20th Congressional District. 

  • First elected to the Assembly in 2016, Fong previously worked as the district director for McCarthy for nearly a decade. 
  • Fong ran unopposed for the 32nd Assembly District and can serve two more terms – four years – in state office.
  • Thursday evening, Fong’s neighbor in the California State Legislature – outgoing Asm. Devon Mathis (R–Porterville) – also announced he would not run for the House seat.
  • Mathis announced last week he would forego a final term in the Legislature to pursue new opportunities in the San Joaquin Valley. He has endorsed Tulare lawyer and engineer Alexandra Macedo to succeed him.
  • The pair of lawmakers join outgoing Asm. Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) in declining to launch a Congressional bid. Patterson announced his decision in the immediate aftermath of McCarthy’s retirement news.

What they’re saying: In a statement Thursday, Fong said he has been humbled in the past 24 hours to receive an outpouring of encouragement to run for Congress and thanked everyone for their support. 

  • After giving thoughtful and prayerful consideration, Fong said he decided with his family that now is not his time to run for Congress. 
  • “I believe California is worth fighting for, and I will be seeking another term to the State Assembly to bring common sense back to our state government,” Fong said. “Our state is in crisis, and our community needs a strong and effective voice in Sacramento now more than ever to defend our way of life and our values. I will continue to fight for fiscal responsibility, affordable energy, more water infrastructure, and safer neighborhoods.
  • “Since the news of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s retirement from the House of Representatives, I’ve been truly humbled by the flood of support & encouragement, people putting their faith in me to run,” Mathis said in his statement. “I’ve been praying deeply with my family & stand resolute to stay on course with my current plan of action. I will be finishing my current Assembly term and shifting gears to take everything I have learned and pay it forward by consulting on projects to help our Valley.”
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