Who are the candidates running to replace McCarthy in the special election?

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy rubs his face during the fourth day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2023  (Getty Images)
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy rubs his face during the fourth day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2023 (Getty Images)

The special election to replace former House speaker Kevin McCarthy – who left Congress before the end of his term – is being held on Tuesday.

Nine candidates are on the ballot all vying to finish Mr McCarthy’s current term in the House of Representatives.

It marks the second election in the district this month after a primary to serve the next full term was previously held on 5 March.

Mr McCarthy’s seat has been vacant since December.

The Republican congressman had been ousted from the speakership in October after just nine months in the post, as he faced a rebellion from the far-right faction of his party.

Two months later, he resigned from Congress altogether – leaving the Bakersfield seat in the Central Valley, north of Los Angeles, that he had held since 2007.

The nine candidates now seeking to replace him are all appearing on the same ballot regardless of party.

If the top candidate gets more than half of the votes, they will win the seat, but if no one gets more than 50 per cent of the vote, the top two will face off in a run-off election on 21 May.

Here’s a rundown of the candidates running to replace Mr McCarthy:


Vince Fong

The seat is guaranteed to have a Republican representative during the next term as the top two finishers in the 5 March primary for the general election were both Republicans – Mr Fong and Mike Boudreaux.

Mr Fong, a state assemblyman and former advisor to Mr McCarthy, won the endorsement of the former speaker, as well as the backing of former president Donald Trump.

Mike Boudreaux

Mr Boudreaux is the Tulare County sheriff who has garnered the support of local Republican groups as well as county leaders.

The sheriff has built a narrative around being the alternative to establishment Republicans in the Central Valley. After advancing to the general election, he said the area is “demanding leadership in Washington with real experience confronting our biggest issues – safety and our open border”.

Kyle Kirkland

The Fresno casino owner has loaned his campaign $485,000, according to federal records.

“What we’re seeing today is too many people just engaging in the fight and the rhetoric and not enough people engaging in results,” he told KBAK last month. “We need more practical business experience. People that know how to put their emotions in check and separate the drama from the real data and figure out ‘Okay, how are we going to get to a solution here,’ and importantly how to do it on a budget.”

Anna Cohen

Ms Cohen’s website states that she was “born and raised” in Bakersfield and that she studied political science at UCLA.

“In addition to being a Rotarian, Scottish Rites volunteer, and double bassist in the Tehachapi Symphony, she also teaches instrumental music at six high schools in the Kern High School District,” the site states.

She is also the only woman Republican running in the race, with her website describing her as “also a proud wife and mother (something the other Republican special ballot candidates cannot claim)”.


Marisa Wood

Democrats have unified behind Ms Wood, a junior high school teacher, who managed to get to the general election in 2022 against Mr McCarthy.

However, in the 5 March primary, she came in third.

“I know I feel that so many of our leaders, our political leaders, don’t really care about us, the people who elected them to be there,” Ms Wood, 63, told KGET in January.

Harmesh Kumar

Dr Kumar is a clinical psychologist who also ran in the primary for the US Senate in California.

He was endorsed by the East Bay Times when he ran for Concord city council in 2016. He previously served on the city’s Human Relations Commission and the panel overseeing the spending of revenue from sales taxes.

“He also offers free professional help to veterans with PTSD, substance abusers, the homeless and survivors of domestic violence. It’s the sort of selflessness currently lacking on the council,” the paper wrote in 2016.

‘No party preference’

Three candidates are running under “no party preference”.

Ben Dewell

The meteorologist is the director of the Stallion Springs Community Service District, stating on his site that the experience has given him “six years of direct non-partisan, experience legislating vital governmental services for a community of 4,000”.

“I am willing to work and compromise with anyone to get things moving, and that’s the problem with Congress right now,” he told KGET last month.

David Fluhart

The cannabis grower from the Sierra foothills is also running for Kern County Supervisorial District 1.

“I think that the county protects itself more than trying to work with the other communities and whatnot,” he told KGET. “It’s getting harder in this world to pay for things we need and we need to get creative on how to do that.”

James Cardoza

Running as a fiscal conservative but more moderate on social issues, Mr Cardoza states on his site that he “grew up on a dairy and row crop farm in Tulare”.

The real estate photographer, specialising in aerial and drone photography, states on the site that he “supports efforts to balance the federal government budget and curb inflation through government-wide austerity”.