Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R)
California 22nd District
At the southern end of California’s Central Valley is Bakersfield. It has been the focus of great migrations four times—in the gold rush of 1885, in the boomlet that followed the discovery of oil in 1899, in the 1930s flight of Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas and in a flood of newcomers in the 1980s and 1990s, when Bakersfield and Kern County grew more rapidly than California’s biggest metro areas. The migration that made the deepest imprint was in the 1930s. The Okies drove over a thousand miles of brown landscape, then through the Tehachapi Pass, and found this vast green valley, with its irrigated fields and its eucalyptus-shaded towns—the richest farming country in the world. The story is told vividly in novelist John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and in Dan Morgan’s Rising in the West, which explains how the migrants prospered in California.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The area around Bakersfield is one Southern-accented part of California, the home of country singers Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and a thriving country-music scene. People here are culturally conservative with little empathy for Los Angeles-style flamboyant liberalism. But Bakersfield’s personality may be diluted as Southern California spreads north. And city officials are intent on expanding its boundaries. Developers are working on Centennial, a master-planned new town of 70,000 scheduled to be under construction in 2011 on land that has been used for cattle grazing for more than a century.
The 22nd Congressional District of California, the southernmost district in the Central Valley, includes most of Bakersfield and Kern County, plus most of the land area of San Luis Obispo County and a slice of northern Los Angeles County, including half the desert town of Lancaster and the tiny desert town of Gorman. At the eastern end, in the Mojave Desert, is Edwards Air Force Base, where Chuck Yeager flew the X-1 and where the Space Shuttle has frequently landed. The 22nd includes oil fields and high-income subdivisions. The rich farmland produces most of the olives grown in the United States and more than 70% of the carrots (this is where the baby carrot was born). Politically, Kern County was Democratic territory, but by the late 1960s, it had become solidly Republican in national politics. The inland portion of San Luis Obispo County has always been Republican. George W. Bush won 68% of the vote in the district in 2004, his best showing in any California district. Republican presidential candidate John McCain won 60% in 2008 to 38% for Democrat Barack Obama, McCain’s best district in the state.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: Jan. 26, 1965, Bakersfield .
Education: Attended Bakersfield Col., 1984-85, CA St. U., B.S. 1989, M.B.A. 1994.
Family: Married (Judy); 2 children.
Elected office: Kern Comm. Col. Board, 2000-02, CA Assembly, 2002-06, min.ldr., 2003-06.
Professional Career: Owner, Kevin O’s Deli, 1986-87, Mesa Marin Batting Range, 1991-92; Dist. dir., U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas, 1987-2002.
The congressman from the 22nd District is Kevin McCarthy, a Republican who won the seat in 2006 without serious competition. McCarthy comes from a fourth-generation Bakersfield family and has a political background that has moved him quickly onto the leadership track in Congress. In college, he was chairman of the California Young Republicans and later headed the national Young Republicans organization. A graduate of California State University in Bakersfield, with an MBA, he started his own deli with $5,000 in winnings from the state lottery and made a success of the business. He sold the business and joined the district office of Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; McCarthy eventually became his district director and local protege. In 2002, McCarthy followed in Thomas’s footsteps by winning election to the state Legislature. A mainstream conservative, McCarthy quickly impressed his colleagues and was elected minority leader during his first term. He served on the transition team for newly elected GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then worked closely with the governor on reducing the state’s budget deficit, overhauling its workers’ compensation system, and crafting a redistricting proposal that drew districts in which no political party had more than a 7% advantage among registered voters.
|Kevin McCarthy (R)||Unopposed||($709,687)|
|Kevin McCarthy (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (71%)
When Thomas announced his retirement in March 2006, McCarthy was the logical successor. He faced only token opposition in the June primary, a testament both to the strength of his candidacy and to the fact that Thomas announced his retirement just four days before the filing deadline, leaving little time for other prospective challengers to organize for a campaign. In this solidly Republican district, winning the GOP nomination was tantamount to victory. In November, McCarthy won 71%-29%. Yet he raised more than $1 million and traveled the country campaigning for and contributing to other Republican congressional candidates. He doled out at least $80,000, $50,000 of it to the National Republican Congressional Committee and most of the rest to Republican candidates for open seats. His hustle to raise money for the party put McCarthy in good stead with GOP leaders. He was also chosen as the freshman representative to the Republican Steering Committee, the leadership-run panel that hands out all-important committee assignments.
McCarthy caught on quickly in the House. As fellow California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes told the Los Angeles Times, McCarthy “lives and breathes politics.” He got seats on the Financial Services and House Administration committees, and he occasionally departed from mainstream conservative views. As one of the younger Republican members, he expedited the systematic linking of lawmakers’ websites and widely watched YouTube videos. He chaired the Platform Committee at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, winning praise for soliciting a wide spectrum of views and uniting conservatives and moderates.
In 2009, Virginia Republican Eric Cantor, the House Minority Whip, appointed McCarthy as his chief deputy whip, a role that Republicans usually reserve for their brightest up-and-coming star. The appointment gave McCarthy a role in Minority Leader John Boehner’s senior leadership team. McCarthy has continued to be a prolific fundraiser for the GOP, and he contributed to nearly 80 House Republican candidates in 2008. As a member of Cantor’s Young Guns campaign team, McCarthy took a prominent role in 2009 as the head of recruiting for the National Republican Congressional Committee’s 2010 campaign.
At home, McCarthy was re-elected without opposition in 2008.