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Charles Dharapak/Associated Press

In this file photo from January 2011, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy arrives for a closed GOP conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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Incoming House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif. arrives for a closed GOP conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The smallest percentage of votes Kevin McCarthy has garnered in his three runs for Congress was 71 percent -- in his first race in 2006 against Democrat Sharon Beery. Since then, he's run unopposed and against a write-in candidate, winning no less than 99 percent of votes in those elections.

As majority whip he's also one of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives and has raised millions in his campaign for a fourth term.

But that hasn't stopped two men from challenging him this year.


Terry Phillips, 59, of Bakersfield, is a journalist and media consultant who most recently hosted a news and talk program on Valley Public Radio. He's also been a correspondent for CBS News, reporting from Moscow, Sarajevo and Port-au-Prince.

Phillips is registered as "no party preference," and said the battle between the two main parties has impeded solving more immediate challenges.

"No one seems to want to work with people on the other side," he said. "The two parties in general and politicians in particular see each other as the enemy."

Phillips said he'd support outlawing private campaign contributions, which he calls "institutionalized corruption."

"Obviously you can't have a political system without resources, but they don't have to be private resources," he said, advocating instead for public financing of federal elections. As an independent, he wouldn't answer to one party or the other, but could be a deciding factor in close votes in Congress, he said.

Were he elected, Phillips said there are three areas he'd focus on: ensuring California controls water resources in the state without federal government domination, improving health and health care for the Central Valley and foreign policy.

On foreign policy, Phillips said, "We need again to be the country that everyone loves and respects. ... We need to be engaged not only militarily but also diplomatically, and we need to engage in commerce."

"I don't think we have the luxury of simply walking away from these conflicts," he said of the United States' involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I didn't want us to go in the first place, but now that we are there ... we need to carefully find a way to transform our mission from a combat mission to a peacetime mission."

On health care, Phillips said although President Barack Obama's health care law has some flaws, such as not allowing the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over prices, "we have tens of millions of people who previously had no access to health care who now do have some access. ... All of that would be undone as a result of ... efforts to repeal all or part of the bill."

Phillips has plenty of criticism for McCarthy and said he's been more interested in promoting his party than working for his constituents. For example, he said McCarthy has misled people about the health care reform law, which hasn't served constituents well.

McCarthy's part in challenging the law, now being reviewed in the Supreme Court, "is evidence of his poor leadership and once again putting concerns about his party ahead of his concerns about his country," Phillips said.

"It's clear his priority from the beginning has been his party, and I can easily imagine him saying, 'I don't need to worry about these guys (his opponents).'"

A representative from McCarthy's office didn't respond to a request for comment Wednesday.


Eric Parker, 44, of Mojave manages an auto parts store and restores motorcycles with his father, who is helping Parker campaign.

Parker is running as a Republican, but calls himself a "freedomist."

"I want people to know that no matter what party or what views they have, I'll always err on the side of their personal freedoms." That applies to everything from gun control to abortion to gay marriage, he said.

As for why he decided to run, Parker said, "I finally looked around and I wasn't as proud of my country as I used to be. The rich were putting profits over patriotism. The poor were getting more and more depressed."

So Parker has many ideas for creating jobs, including helping small businesses, which he said are "the real job creators."

"I don't think the big corporations that outsource jobs are the real job creators," Parker said. "The auto parts stores and cafes here, they can't send this out to China or India. These are the job creators that we have to help out."

Among his ideas are to pay unemployed people with at least a high school diploma to be part of a permanent standing jury pool, penalize companies for not hiring U.S. workers and allow public institutions like schools to save money left over at the end of the budget year rather than having to spend it.

"We have stopped creating products in this country," he said. "Countries like China, India, Pakistan, even Mexico, that are building the products that we buy seem to have more control over our country than we do. I find that a serious problem."

On health care, Parker said one idea would be to expand Medicare.

If everyone paid more into Medicare than currently, instead of buying private insurance, and every working person had access to it from age 18 on, "we would save a lot of money," Parker said. "For-profit health insurance is fine to fill the gaps, but it shouldn't be the first line of defense."

Parker likened Obama's health care law to "a good jab, but he doesn't follow anything with the right hand."

As for going up against McCarthy, Parker said, "I think McCarthy is not as popular as his numbers show. He has not had any competition. So is he really popular or is he the only game in town? We're going to find out."


It's unlikely that either Parker or Phillips will be able to unseat McCarthy, said Allan Hoffenblum, who publishes the California Target Book, a non-partisan analysis of federal and state legislative races in California.

For one thing, the high percentage of Republican voters in the district is a big plus for McCarthy.

"The only contest is going to be who gets the second spot on the ballot," Hoffenblum said. "I don't think Kevin's in any serious difficulty as far as reelection. ... Their chances are between slim and none."

Under California's new open primary system, the top two vote getters in June will face each other in November, regardless of party.

McCarthy's reelection may not be a completely forgone conclusion, Hoffenblum said.

"You also have to remember he's the No. 3 in a Congress that has a 10 percent approval rating," Hoffenblum said. But, he added, "I don't expect any upsets in this one."