Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R)

California District 23

Leadership: Majority Leader

N/A

kevinmccarthy.house.gov

Biography

Elected: 2006, 5th term.

Born: January 26, 1965, Bakersfield

Home: Bakersfield

Education: Attended Bakersfield Col., 1984-85, CA St. U., B.S. 1989, M.B.A. 1994

Professional Career: Owner, Kevin O’s Deli, 1986-87, Mesa Marin Batting Range, 1991-92; Dist. dir., U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas, 1987-2002.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Baptist

Family: married (Judy) , 2 children

Kevin McCarthy is a gregarious former Capitol Hill staffer elected in 2006 whom his Republican colleague from the Central Valley, Devin Nunes, says “lives and breathes politics.” McCarthy rocketed to the No. 3 spot in the House GOP leadership to become majority whip by making himself indispensable to the party’s campaign planning operations, then in June 2014 moved up a notch to the post of majority leader in the fallout from Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor's stunning primary defeat.

McCarthy grew up in Bakersfield, where his blue-collar family has lived for generations and often voted Democratic. He moved in the other direction. At 19, he won $5,000 in the state lottery and invested it in a deli, which helped pay for business school at Cal State, Bakersfield. In college, he was elected chairman of the California Young Republicans and later headed the national Young Republicans organization. After he sold the deli, he got a job in the local office of U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas, who was then on his way to chairing the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. McCarthy eventually became Thomas’ district director and protégé. In 2000, McCarthy was elected to the Kern County Community College Board and in 2002, he, like Thomas before him, was elected to the Assembly. He was immediately chosen Republican leader (which is a little easier than it looks—because of California’s term limits, no assemblyman at the beginning of a session has served more than two terms). McCarthy worked with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the budget, workers' compensation issues, and redistricting procedures.

When Thomas announced his retirement in March 2006 from the old 22nd District, just four days before the filing deadline, McCarthy was the obvious candidate to succeed him. He faced only token opposition in the Republican primary. In November, he won 71%-29%. Looking ahead, he raised more than $1 million and traveled the country campaigning for other Republican congressional candidates. That attracted the attention of party leaders. After the election, he was chosen the freshman representative on the Republican Steering Committee, a leadership-run group that makes all-important committee assignments. He also chaired the Platform Committee at the 2008 Republican National Convention, winning praise for soliciting a wide spectrum of views and uniting conservatives and moderates.

McCarthy landed a leadership position in 2009 when Minority Whip Cantor appointed him chief deputy whip—an unusual amount of responsibility bestowed on a House member serving only his second term. On the night of President Barack Obama’s inauguration that year, he reportedly implored a gathering of leading GOP lawmakers and activists plotting strategy to be aggressive. “If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” McCarthy said, according to Robert Draper’s 2012 book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

The deputy whip assignment became the start of McCarthy’s ascension. He was the head of recruiting for the National Republican Congressional Committee in what turned out to be a highly successful election for the GOP in 2010. He traveled widely looking for candidates, identifying people capable of taking on Democrats used to winning against weak opposition. Ultimately, Republicans had candidates in 430 of the 435 congressional districts, the highest number ever. With Cantor and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, he was named head of the party’s “Young Guns” program to spotlight otherwise obscure Republican challengers. House Minority Leader John Boehner also assigned McCarthy and Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois to draw up a document similar to the House Republicans’ 1994 Contract with America. They solicited ideas from the public on the Internet, and ultimately compiled the “Pledge to America” policy manifesto. Kept deliberately vague to deter Democratic attacks, it did not make as big an impression as the Contract, but it did tend to commit incoming and veteran Republicans to a single set of policies, such as extending the Bush-era tax cuts and repealing Obama’s health care overhaul.

McCarthy was rewarded for his impressive efforts for the party. When Cantor ascended to majority leader after Republicans won control of the House in 2010, McCarthy was chosen by his peers to replace Cantor as whip, the third-ranking position in the House after speaker and majority leader. Rep.Pete Sessions of Texas, another influential Republican, wanted the post, but was persuaded by Boehner to stay on for a second term as chairman of the NRCC, clearing the way for McCarthy to run unchallenged for whip.

In his new job, McCarthy avoided the tensions with Boehner that Cantor experienced and employed a nice-guy approach in building trust. He mountain-biked with Republican members in the mornings and rounded up others in the evenings for group dinners, drawing them out by asking questions such as, “What’s the most embarrassing thing that happened to you at college?” and “What was the first concert you went to?” He encouraged lawmakers to hang around his whip office on the first floor of the Capitol and he got acquainted with their families. “He knows everybody, and their spouse, and their kids,” fellow California Republican Rep. John Campbell marveled in July 2012.

“A conference united around policies creates better legislation than using intimidation,” McCarthy told The New York Times. But he also did not go out of his way to build bridges to House Democrats, or senators of either party. “The Senate is like a country club, and the House is like stopping at a truck stop for breakfast,” he told reporters at an August 2012 gathering at which he suggested the current Senate was the worst in history. “We are a microcosm of society, and we reflect it first.”

McCarthy paid particular attention to the often-rambunctious pack of tea party freshmen elected in 2010. He offered them advice, including telling them to vote their conscience at times if it meant disagreeing with the leadership. Sometimes the results were disastrous. When the leadership decided in April 2011 to back a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating, 59 Republicans defected. And at the height of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations in December 2012, when the two parties struggled against a deadline to reach agreement on spending and tax cuts, Boehner’s “Plan B” proposal was pulled from the floor when it became clear that it lacked sufficient Republican votes. But a modest level of consensus ultimately emerged in the GOP caucus. A McClatchy Newspapers analysis in October 2012 found that the 68 tea party freshmen backed the party line 92% of the time—the exact same rate for lawmakers from both parties in the entire House.

McCarthy's whip operation continued to face periodic criticism for its failure to unite Republicans. But it didn't affect him when Cantor unexpectedly lost his primary; with the support of friendly colleagues and the GOP's establishment wing, he immediately geared up a campaign to replace his fallen friend. Early on, it appeared he might face stiff competition from two committee chairs from Texas who previously had served in leadership -- Jeb Hensarling of Financial Services and Sessions of Rules. But both dropped their bids, leaving Idaho's Raul Labrador as his only opponent. Yet Labrador got into the race less than a week before the vote, and never stood a chance against McCarthy's formidable vote-counting operation.

In his new job, McCarthy quickly showed his allegiance to the hard right when he publicly endorsed closing the U.S. Export-Import Bank when its charter expired in September. McCarthy had voted in 2012 to renew the charter of the bank, which many conservatives accuse of engaging in crony capitalism. But he showed a pragmatic side as well, warning a group of New York donors that unless the Republican-controlled Congress could prove it could govern, its party would not capture the White House in 2016. He promised to overhaul how the House did its work by giving committee chairmen more autonomy, by having GOP leaders work more closely with their Senate counterparts, and to find issues that could draw a clear contrast between the parties for 2016.

McCarthy made it clear that he saw a big opportunity for the GOP in the opening months of the 114th Congress (2015-16). He helped create a working group of committee chairs to develop a Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act. But after a month, Republicans roundly were criticized for their inability to get bills through the chamber and for picking what many saw as an unwinnable fight with President Obama over immigration policy by trying to use a Department of Homeland Security spending bill to force an end to his executive order on the subject. The leadership also had to jettison a planned vote on a controversial anti-abortion bill after some female Republicans complained it was too harsh. Boehner shouldered the bulk of the blame, at least publicly.

McCarthy is no close friend of Democrats. But gets along with some of them -- at least superficially -- far better than Cantor. At Obama’s 2013 inauguration, McCarthy sat with liberal Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, and he once beseeched Vice President Joe Biden to call his mother on her birthday. In early 2015, he vowed to work closely with Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein on helping to ease the state's crippling drought. He has a far more adversarial relationship with California's other senator, Barbara Boxer; in January 2015 he blamed her for torpedoing a drought-relief bill the previous year. The tart-tongued Boxer said that when McCarthy made similar comments to her, she told him he was dreaming.

On legislation, McCarthy succeeded in passing in the House his bill in 2011 to remove a regulatory ban preventing small, privately held companies from using advertisements to solicit sophisticated investors for private offerings, and he sought to guard against what he considers overregulation of the commercial space industry to help his district’s Mojave Air and Space Port. But McCarthy never will be mistaken for a policy wonk; his first love is political strategizing. In spring 2012, he launched a program called “Trailblazers” aimed at grooming candidates running for state legislative offices.

McCarthy had no major party opposition in 2008 or 2010. In the newly reconfigured, but still very Republican 23rd District, he beat Independent journalist Terry Phillips in 2012 with 73% of the vote. In that year's subsequent lame-duck session, he and Cantor split from Boehner in opposing the final fiscal cliff deal. “I voted no because it was not a balanced approach,” he told KERO-TV in Bakersfield. “I voted no because I did not think the bill was good enough from the standpoint that it made no cuts and added $4 trillion. We’ve got to change the tide and the debt that has been accumulating.”

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2915

(202) 225-2908

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2421
Washington, DC 20515-0523

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2915

(202) 225-2908

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2421
Washington, DC 20515-0523

DISTRICT OFFICE

(661) 327-3611

(661) 637-0867

4100 Empire Drive Suite 150
Bakersfield, CA 93309-0409

DISTRICT OFFICE

(661) 327-3611

(661) 637-0867

4100 Empire Drive Suite 150
Bakersfield, CA 93309-0409

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 12667
Bakersfield, CA 93389-2667

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 12667
Bakersfield, CA 93389-2667

Staff Leadership Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Trevor Smith
Legislative Correspondent

Acquisitions

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Aerospace

George Caram
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Appropriations

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Budget

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Campaign

James Min
Deputy Chief of Staff

Commerce

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Crime

George Caram
Legislative Assistant

Economics

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Education

George Caram
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Environment

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Govt Ops

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Trevor Smith
Legislative Correspondent

Grants

George Caram
Legislative Assistant

Sam Van Kopp
Legislative Fellow

Health

George Caram
Legislative Assistant

Homeland Security

George Caram
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Intelligence

Sam Van Kopp
Legislative Fellow

Land Use

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Military

Sam Van Kopp
Legislative Fellow

Native Americans

Trevor Smith
Legislative Correspondent

Rules

James Min
Deputy Chief of Staff

Science

George Caram
Legislative Assistant

Social Security

George Caram
Legislative Assistant

Tax

Kyle Lombardi
Legislative Director

Technology

George Caram
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Trevor Smith
Legislative Correspondent

Transportation

Sam Van Kopp
Legislative Fellow

Trevor Smith
Legislative Correspondent

Welfare

Trevor Smith
Legislative Correspondent

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Kevin McCarthy
Votes: 158,161
Percent: 73.22%
Terry Phillips
Votes: 57,842
Percent: 26.78%
2012 PRIMARY
Kevin McCarthy
Votes: 71,109
Percent: 72.16%
Terry Phillips
Votes: 17,018
Percent: 17.27%
Eric Parker
Votes: 10,414
Percent: 10.57%
2010 GENERAL
Kevin McCarthy
Votes: 173,490
Percent: 98.76%
2010 PRIMARY
Kevin McCarthy
Votes: 77,140
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Kevin McCarthy
Votes: 224,549
Percent: 100.0%
2008 PRIMARY
Kevin McCarthy
Votes: 61,915
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (99%), 2008 (100%), 2006 (71%)

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