House Republicans on Thursday elected Bakersfield, Calif., native Kevin McCarthy as majority leader, giving California’s Central Valley a leg up on Capitol Hill.
McCarthy’s election makes the 49-year-old former deli operator the first Californian to reach the House’s number-two position since it was created in 1899. The promotion also puts McCarthy on the spot, raising expectations about what he can deliver for his home state and region.
“It’s certainly good news for the Golden State,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “On issues that are non-partisan, this could really benefit California.”
Following a quick campaign, McCarthy won election on the first round of a GOP secret ballot conducted among 233 House Republicans. He handily defeated Idaho Republican Raul Labrador, a conservative House sophomore who entered the race late.
McCarthy will replace Rep. Eric Cantor, an ambitious Virginia Republican who is stepping down early following his primary defeat by a political novice affiliated with tea party activists.
A graduate of California State University, Bakersfield, where he also earned an MBA, McCarthy ran a deli and a batting range before starting his political career with his 2002 election to the State Assembly. In 2006, he first won election to the House.
While McCarthy’s original district included coastal San Luis Obispo County, the present 23rd Congressional District has since been largely consolidated in Tulare and Kern counties, as well as portions of Los Angeles County. Republicans hold a 45 percent to 29 percent voter registration advantage over Democrats, making it a safe GOP seat.