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Republican Vince Fong advances to runoff election to complete term of ex-House Speaker McCarthy


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Republican state Legislator Vince Fong advanced to a May election in California to decide who will complete the remainder of the term of deposed former U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which runs through January.

It was not yet clear Tuesday night who will emerge from a crowded field of contenders to take Fong on in the May 21 special election in the 20th District.

Fong, a onetime McCarthy aide who also has his endorsement, and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, another Republican, were among a cluster of candidates in the solidly conservative district hoping to fill the seat the speaker left vacant when he resigned last year.

Fong is a California Assembly member who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Republicans are expected to easily hold the seat, and the party’s fragile majority in the chamber was not at stake in Tuesday’s election.

The district, which cuts through the Central Valley farm belt including parts of Bakersfield and Fresno, is the most strongly Republican House seat in heavily Democratic California.

The polls closed at 8 p.m., and early returns showed Fong, Boudreaux and Democrat Marisa Wood edging ahead of the field.

Because of Trump’s involvement, the race will be watched as a possible proxy vote on the former president’s clout as he heads toward an all-but-certain matchup against President Joe Biden in November.

McCarthy’s dramatic fall in the House — he is the only speaker in history to be voted out of the job — left behind a messy race to succeed him that has included an ongoing lawsuit and exposed rivalries within the GOP.

Republicans occupy only 11 of the state’s 52 House seats, with the one held by McCarthy currently vacant.

The election was likely to leave many voters befuddled and draw a sparse turnout, because they just saw some of the same names on the March 5 primary ballot for the full 20th Congressional District term that begins in January. Fong and Boudreaux have advanced to the November election in that contest.

The special election only covers the time remaining in McCarthy’s term, running through early next year. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the top-two finishers would be matched in a May 21 election.

With nine names on the ballot, it appeared unlikely any candidate would surpass that threshold to claim the seat outright.

Trump endorsed Fong in February, calling him “a true Republican.” Boudreaux’s supporters include Ric Grenell, a former acting director of national intelligence in the Trump administration, and Republican state Sen. Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, Fong’s home turf.

Fong and Boudreaux occupy much of the same policy terrain, and both are Trump-supporting conservatives.

But there is an insider-outsider aspect to the race: Fong is McCarthy’s handpicked choice and a product of his political operation, while the sheriff is not.

Their backgrounds also offer a contrast.

Fong is a legislator coming out of McCarthy’s orbit who says he is offering “trusted, tested leadership.” He dominated the race in fundraising. Boudreaux, who is the son of a detective, spotlights his decades of law-and-order experience and says he has “the know-how to keep us safe.”

The top issue in the race was the nation’s border crisis.

Fong is anchored in Kern County, the most populous swath in the district, while Boudreaux is a familiar name in Tulare and Kings counties. The race could be decided in Fresno County, where the two were narrowly divided in the March 5 primary, according to incomplete results.

Article Topic Follows: AP-National

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