Monday, January 22, 2024








        A silly, very expensive and possibly exhausting all-year election season is coming up this year in one corner of California mainly because of one man’s desire to end his humiliation and embarrassment.


        That man is Kevin McCarthy, deposed last fall as the Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.


        When members of Congress resign or retire, they usually stay until their terms end, rather than leaving in the middle. Not McCarthy. Barely a month after his fellow Republicans rejected his leadership, McCarthy in early December announced that if he could no longer be the kingpin of the House, he would walk out. Then he left.


        That left without representation his 23rd Congressional district, centered on Bakersfield, but also running north into Tulare County and east to Ridgecrest in the high desert of Kern County. It also left Republicans with a meager three-vote majority in the House and another speaker who could be thrown out at any moment by his seemingly impossible to satisfy party mates.


        Also affected are people in the overlapping 32nd California Assembly District, who face as many as seven elections this year because of McCarthy’s quick and selfish exit and the ambitions of his former aide, current Assemblyman Vince Fong.


        Upon McCarthy’s departure, Fong announced he would try to replace his former boss in Congress. Trouble was, he was already signed up to run for reelection in the 32nd Assembly District, which raised the interesting question of whether anyone can run for two offices at once.


        Inevitably, lawsuits ensued. Strangely, they were decided in a Sacramento court, rather than in Bakersfield, where the decision would be felt most. Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang ruled Fong can run for both offices simultaneously. She said nothing about whether he can serve in both the Legislature and Congress at the same time. Chances are that if he replaces McCarthy this spring, Fong will resign from the Assembly, even if that’s not required by law. Logistically, it would be almost impossible to do both jobs at once.


        There would be simultaneous hearings and floor votes in both capitols and Fong could only make both if he sent a clone or a doppelganger to one or the other.


        Besides, state law is ambiguous over whether any of this is legal. “A public officer shall not simultaneously hold two public offices that are incompatible…” goes the law. Who’s to say if these two offices are incompatible? Maybe another judge?


        This leaves the election schedule up in the air. A few things

are certain: Fong and others will contest in the March 5 state

primary for slots in the November general election for a full

two-year term in Congress and for another two-year term in

Sacramento That’s two votes. Then, on March

19 comes a special election set by Gov. Gavin Newsom for the rest of McCarthy’s current term. If no one wins a majority then, a runoff will follow, likely in late April or early May.


        That makes four likely votes, three on the congressional seat alone. If Fong wins those races and then resigns his Assembly spot, as would be normal practice, another special election would follow to pick new Assembly nominees for both the rest of the current term, and possibly also for the next two-year term. Should no one get majorities in those two possibly identical races, another special election would follow for the seat for at least the rest of this year, while the runoff for the next term would likely be held together with the rest of the November election.


        That makes a total of seven likely trips to the ballot box or the mailbox for voters in the overlapping Assembly and Congressional districts.


        There are, of course, costs for all this. A single special election in Tulare County runs at least $200,000, while those in larger counties like Kern and Fresno, each of which contains pieces of at least one of these districts, cost much more.


        The eventual cost to taxpayers could be well over $2 million, just because one man wanted an end to the humiliation his previously boundless ambition brought on. What a guy!



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit


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