The signs said, “Where is Kevin?” and “Make America sane again.”
The chant repeated in call-and-answer style, “Kevin, do your job!”
Between 100 and 150 people gathered in front of the DoubleTree Hotel on Rosedale Highway Tuesday to ask their congressman, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, why he had time to attend a GOP fundraiser at the hotel Tuesday night yet declined an invitation to participate in a town hall discussion scheduled for Wednesday.
The town hall is to be held at 7 p.m. at the Park Stockdale Civic Association Hall, 205 Rio Bravo Drive.
“Kevin just got re-elected. Why is it so important for him to attend a party fundraiser? You think it would be more important for him to speak to his constituents,” said Mary Anne Stiern-McLay, a retiree from the Bakersfield Police Department.
Indeed, House Majority Leader McCarthy was slated to give an “inside look” at Washington policy and politics at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner fundraiser at the hotel. The evening’s keynote speaker was scheduled to be GOP Congressman Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team.
This fundraiser is the largest local GOP event of the year, according to organizers.
“We’re thrilled with the new political era. This will be one grand night for the Grand Old Party,” this year’s dinner Chairman and Taft Mayor Dave Noerr said in a statement.
Wednesday morning, McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks said, "Congressman McCarthy is pleased to support our local Republican Party in its annual fundraising event to promote our principles and solutions facing our community, state, and nation.
"The congressman has a previously scheduled charitable event" Wednesday evening.
Tuesday’s gala event left many at the rally wondering where McCarthy’s priorities lie.
Sloan Holmes, who attended the rally with a friend, said her son had a brain tumor when he was 12. Years later as an adult, he received a letter from his insurance company informing him that his lifetime benefits had run out.
When the Affordable Care Act was passed during the Obama administration, it prohibited the practice by insurance companies of denying individuals coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
“That was important to us,” Holmes said. It was a relief that my son could not be denied coverage.”
But now the Republican-controlled Congress is seeking to dismantle the law.
The United States is the richest, most advanced nation in the world, Holmes said. “We should be able to take care of our own.”
Organizers of today’s town hall say they invited McCarthy but the invitation was declined. They contend that he is not interested in engaging with constituents who have concerns about the direction the country is taking.
Supporters who donate $10,000 could sit at McCarthy’s table at the dinner, and have his ear, organizers said. But what about average Americans?
People are fearful, said Jesse Aguilar, a high school teacher who spoke at the rally. They see the direction the country is taking, he said, as “an attack on those folks least able to defend themselves. And that is ominous.”
The day before his inauguration as president, Donald Trump spotted McCarthy at a luncheon. “Where’s Kevin?” he asked. “There’s my Kevin.”
A sign at Tuesday night’s protest asked another question:
“Whose Kevin are you?”