Vince Fong wins special election to end former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s term

CBS News projects that State Assembly member Vince Fong, a California lawmaker backed by former President Donald Trump, has captured a special election to complete the remainder of the term The deposed former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy.which extends until January.

Fong, a McCarthy protégé who also had the former president’s endorsement, defeated fellow Republican and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux on Tuesday in the 20th Congressional District in the state’s Central Valley farm belt.

With 65% of the votes counted Tuesday afternoon, Fong led Boudreaux by a margin of 60% to 39%.

California State Assemblyman Vince Fong during a press conference on Chile’s continued visa waiver program country in Santa Ana, California, on June 16, 2023.

Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

McCarthy resigned last year after being overthrown in the House. His dramatic fall (he is the only speaker in history to be removed from office) left behind a messy race to succeed him that exposed rivalries within his own party. He has worked behind the scenes to promote Fong’s candidacy: A political action committee linked to McCarthy diverted more than $700,000 into the District 20 race to boost Fong’s campaign.

The special election only covers the remaining time of McCarthy’s term. Fong and Boudreaux will resume their race in November for a full two-year term in the district, although the winner of the special election will gain the advantage of incumbency.

Because of Trump’s involvement, the race will be seen as a potential proxy vote on the former president’s influence as he heads toward an almost certain showdown against President Biden in November.

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

Republicans hold only 11 of the 52 seats in that state’s House of Representatives. Since the district once held by McCarthy will remain in GOP hands, he will give Republicans 12 seats in the state delegation and increase the party’s fragile lead in Congress by a single vote.

There are currently 217 Republicans in the House, 213 Democrats and five vacancies. Those vacancies include McCarthy’s former position.

Some voters may be confused, as Fong and Boudreaux have already appeared in two House votes this year: the March 5 state primary for the full House term and the March 19 primary. in the special election to complete McCarthy’s term.

The two conservative Republicans and Trump supporters occupy much of the same political terrain. Boudreaux has been highlighting his decades of law and order experience and vows to tighten the country’s porous border. Fong also promises to “end the chaos” on the border with Mexico while prioritizing water and energy needs in the farm belt.

Fong, a one-time McCarthy aide who also has the former president’s backing, entered the race with advantages beyond the backing of Trump and McCarthy.

Fong won 42% of the vote in the March primary, Boudreaux nearly 26%, and the rest was divided among other candidates. Fong comes from the most populous part of the district, Kern County, and has outraised the sheriff by about 3 to 1 in campaign funds, according to federal records through the end of March.