In July, Judy McCarthy created a Facebook page, One Smile At A Time For David Marcus, calling on the virtual community to flash a smile of encouragement for a local man in his second battle with cancer. Her effort generated photos of celebrities, politicians and everyday folk moved by the developmentally disabled man's plight.

Friends say the gesture is emblematic of wife of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.

Simple, not showy, caring and effective.

"I recently left a job and had casually mentioned to Judy that it was a hard step. My last day was the day after Kevin had been elected Majority Leader," said close friend Sally Thornberry, wife of Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

"The first text I got that morning was from Judy, letting me know that she was thinking of me. It was typical Judy that with all she had going on in her own life, she was focused on somebody else."

The women met in the Washington trenches and bonded immediately over the juggles of family, jobs and life in the congressional fishbowl.

"Judy is the ultimate 'there you are' person, always looking for a way to support the people around her, and treats everyone with respect," Thornberry added.

Friends closer to home agree.

"Judy is unaffected by the notoriety, always keeping her focus on her convictions of faith, family and friends," said Alison Norris, whose daughters attended Bakersfield High School with the McCarthy children.

For 49-year-old Judy McCarthy, keeping things grounded as a political spouse for more than a decade has meant emphasizing the familiar and connecting to families with similar values. She doesn't consider herself a Washington socialite.

"That's not who we are, and it doesn't define us. I make a real point of getting to know the spouses in a sincere way," Judy said.

And by all accounts, despite their ever-rising family profile, the couple's dynamics haven't changed. They have lived in the same house in the same southwest Bakersfield neighborhood for 17 years.

Judy grew up in Frazier Park as Judy Wages, one of four children. Her parents still reside there.

"My dad is the perfect example of hard work. He worked for National Cement. I didn't grow up wealthy, but we have a very close family, and my foundation of faith came from my mother," Judy said.

Sparks of chemistry flew between Judy and Kevin in a biology class at Bakersfield High School.

"I actually liked one of his friends, but you know, Kevin's personality wins you over, and he doesn't give up," Judy said with a laugh.

The high school sweethearts married in August 1992 and are parents to son Connor, 20, a junior at Georgetown University, and 18-year-old Meghan, a senior at their alma mater.

Over the years, as Kevin ascended the political ladder, a family strategy was put in place.

"We always made sure that one of us needed to be flexible," Judy said. Kevin traveled home most weekends, and Judy shuttled their daughter Meghan south to doctors for treatment of Lyme Disease.

"She has had her battles, but she is so strong, and we are very fortunate," Judy said.

In Washington, Judy is a trustee at Ford's Theatre where she uses the same home-grown volunteer spirit she has employed here in the district.

"Judy has true passion for our mission to celebrate the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln. We are delighted to have both her and Congressman McCarthy's involvement in our important work," said Ford's Theatre Society Director Paul R. Tetreault.

Although both are likeable, easy going and friendly with grins as wide as the Washington Circle, Judy is the yang to Kevin's yin. She is happy to leave the glad-handing to her gregarious husband, whom she describes as essentially a star-struck kid at heart.

The McCarthys, who are most relaxed next to a body of water, enjoy scuba diving and favor Cayucos as a Central Coast escape. They also like to read. A lot. Judy is fond of James Patterson novels, but said her favorite book is the Bible.

She may consider her husband the more social of the two, but she has navigated the social media waters adeptly. She posts Bible verses and quotes of encouragement almost daily.

"God put on my heart as an outreach," she said of what she sees as her 'ministry." "I am not the politician's wife. I am my own person and a Christian."

Not one easily impressed despite having rubbed some pretty famous elbows, Judy admits to being a little thunderstruck as she walked the marble steps of the U.S. Capitol and attended a White House Christmas party.

"I thought about all the people who have walked those steps and to sit on the furniture at the White House, that's pretty cool," she recalled. "I never thought I would be able to do that, and I feel fortunate we are a part of history."

Her husband's election this summer as House Majority Leader was also a wondrous moment not lost on Judy.

"We didn't take it lightly. In one day, your responsibilities are greater, and it is humbling," Judy said.

"But someone had that office before Kevin, and someone will after. You keep your family first and don't look at this as some glamor thing. You are serving, the people elected you to be a servant, you have to have a servant heart."

And does she ever fancy herself as First Lady someday, living among all those historic White House furnishings?

"I haven't even considered the possibility. If it is what God wants for us. We just both laugh," Judy said.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Effective Sept. 30, story commenting on Bakersfield.com will end. Read Executive Editor Christine L. Peterson's Sound Off for details.

https://www.bakersfield.com/columnists/christine-peterson/sound-off-its-time-to-say-goodbye-to-story-comments/article_af1cd14c-f917-11ea-8dbc-a3944b6d9d56.html

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.