Trump-backed candidate wins special election for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s seat

Republican California Assemblymember Vince Fong, who received the backing of former president Donald Trump, won the special election on Tuesday to replace former speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Mr Fong, who is close to Mr McCarthy and got his support, beat Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux to serve the remainder of the former speaker’s term in the House, which ends in early January.

The newly elected member said in a statement that he’ll focus on border security, supporting small businesses, and investing in water storage important to agriculture in the area.

Turnout appeared to be low for the rare election in May. Mr Trump issued his endorsement for Mr Fong in February, but Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence in the Trump administration and a former ambassador to Germany, backed Mr Boudreaux, as did Republican State Senator Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, the home area for both Mr McCarthy and Mr Fong.

The vote could be seen as a sign of Mr Trump’s enduring influence in the party he has dominated since 2016. With Mr Fong eventually sworn in, Republicans will hold 12 out of the state’s 52 seats in the US House and increase its tiny House majority to 218 to the Democrats’ 213. Once Mr Fong is sworn in, there will be four vacancies.

Republican Assemblymember Vince Fong speaks on the floor of the California Assembly on 11 April 2024 (AP)
Republican Assemblymember Vince Fong speaks on the floor of the California Assembly on 11 April 2024 (AP)

Since Mr Fong has only been elected to serve the remainder of Mr McCarthy’s term, he and Mr Boudreaux are set to run against each other again in November to be elected for a full term in the House.

“California faces a crime crisis unlike any other in its history. That’s why I will be stepping up the fight for a safer Valley and safer California,” Mr Boudreaux said in a statement referencing the upcoming election.

Both Mr Boudreaux and Mr Fong had already appeared on two House ballots this year, the primary for the full House term on 5 March and the special election primary to serve the remainder of Mr McCarthy’s term on 19 March.

Both are Trump supporters and conservative Republicans. Mr Boudreaux has pushed his experience as a law enforcement officer and said he would work to strengthen the southern border, while Mr Fong said he would “end the chaos” at the border. He also promised to work on water and energy necessities for farmers.

Mr Fong is a former aide to Mr McCarthy who received 42 per cent of the vote in the March primary to Mr Boudreaux’s 26 per cent. Coming from the most populated part of the district, Mr Fong also managed to outraise Mr Boudreaux by a significant margin.

Mr McCarthy, the only speaker to ever be voted out of the job, worked to boost Mr Fong’s campaign such as by steering more than $700,000 to the race to aid Mr Fong.

The Associated Press contributed to this report