Congressman Kevin McCarthy leads a double life.

In Washington, he's golden: Heir apparent to retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, frequent and familiar White House guest, donor-connected darling of vulnerable Republican incumbents.

In Bakersfield, not quite so much anymore: He's still a man constituents really, really want to believe, considering his warm reception at fundraisers and service club luncheons. But recent events have at least some of them wondering on which coast his allegiances truly lie.

In Washington, he collects big checks and hands them out too. McCarthy personally raised $12 million in campaign donations in the second quarter of 2018, running his take in this election cycle to a cool $40 million, and he has already distributed half of that total to GOP candidates. That doesn't include Thursday's haul at the Capitol Hill Club, where McCarthy secured commitments for $10 million from House Republicans — with the biggest check, $6 million, coming from McCarthy himself.

But back in his hometown district, growers are still sweating President Trump's tariffs. California is on the front lines of this growing U.S.-China trade war, and Kern County, the state's biggest agricultural producer, is especially vulnerable. Tree nuts, a huge local crop, have been specifically hard hit, a fact that must be particularly painful given McCarthy's personal connections with people in the Kern County almond and pistachio business.

Thank goodness for that $12 billion federal farm aid package, right? You know, the money that's supposed to ease the impact of China's retaliatory counter-tariffs. Except the people benefitting from the aid package are primarily the producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs — in other words Midwestern states and not (except for dairy) California.

How can that happen, you ask, given McCarthy's co-starring role in the Donald Trump show alongside House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes of Fresno? They're both Trump favorites who've gone to bat for the president time and time again. And they represent vital California farming districts.

Tough luck, Central Valley. Republican strategists know their districts will send McCarthy and Nunes back to Washington in November (and California will still be blue in 2020) no matter what they pull on constituents. But things aren't so certain in vulnerable pockets of the heartland. So, campaign strategy, not district economic need, carries the day.

McCarthy has his challenges in Washington, too. His path to the speakership was cleared considerably when Ryan and the majority whip, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, endorsed him; Scalise had considered a run himself. But it was muddied again Thursday when Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus, announced that he would seek the speaker post.

Most House Republicans recognize that Jordan is a long shot. But Jordan could try to extract promises from McCarthy, should Republicans hold the House in November. And one of those promises is sure to involve an immigration game plan that rejects anything that smells even remotely like amnesty.

Already McCarthy has had to go back on a promise to hold a vote before the August recess on a conservative immigration bill that included a much-needed guest-worker program for farmers. That flip put McCarthy in an awkward spot; just last month he had assured several rank-and-file members there'd be a vote, and his assurances compelled at least two congressmen to withhold support for legislation that would have created a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. They figured they'd have the opportunity to do so again in August. Now they probably won't.

“There are those of us (who) need to go back (home) and show that we’re doing all we can to do (on immigration reform)," one of those Republican congressmen, Dennis Ross of Florida, told Politico. "... And if it fails, it fails."

The American Farm Bureau Federation supports a guest worker program, and so does the Kern County Farm Bureau, which reprinted in its members' newsletter one of my recent columns criticizing McCarthy's conflicting allegiances.

Bakersfield has noticed, Kevin.

I'll concede McCarthy has one tough job. He's supposed to keep 236 Republicans in line and on the same page, a task that is quite impossible. He's also supposed to be looking out for the 707,000 people of the 23rd Congressional District, however, and when the interests of those two jobs diverge, he regularly chooses the former over the latter.

In Washington, McCarthy is the golden goose, the man you want by your side if you're an at-risk Republican member of Congress in need of financial assistance.

But back in Bakersfield, if you're an almond grower worried about who might buy your crop next year, or a grape grower wondering who might be picking yours, McCarthy looks, more and more, like a different sort of poultry.

Robert Price's column appears Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Reach him at rprice@bakersfield.com or @stubblebuzz. The opinions expressed are his own.

(20) comments

Grancer

Correcting out of balance trade scenarios is a hard business that can’t be executed without casualties. Leaders trying to do what is best for the country as a whole run the risk of condemnation in their home districts if any of their constituent’s oxen are getting gored in the process. Sacrificing for the good of one’s country is common for soldiers but many civilians will only give the practice lip service.

BakersfieldEagle

Mr. McCarthy is a great asset to our community. We should be grateful to have such an influential person on our side no matter the things we disagree on. God bless Mr. McCarthy and we are praying for all those in public office that are looking out for us.

theoracle

Naysayers of Mr. Price come out of the cave and see the real sun. Your eyes will sting at first, however as time goes by the pain cease and you begging to see more clear.
Being Republican doesn't have a prerequisite of wearing blinders and following the the bell cow over the cliff (unless you live in Kern Clownty). You can have Mr. Nice Guy hurt his constituent Kevin. For me, I'll take the irascible Mr. Thomas and his 3/4 billion dollar aid package for the community.

Vavoom

#45 says: "kevin!! where's my kevin. he displays who he is... a selfish, self-centered male who aligns with the rich. 40 million!

clsoca

Mmmmmmmm, are we talking about the same congressman who will undoubtedly go down in history as one of Kern County's best people assets.

KenWitham

I am waiting to see when he will turn into an asset. I struggle to see what good he has brought this county over his tenure. Just because he has an R after his name doesn't mean he is doing right by us, his constituents.

theoracle

Ken, in an insane society a sane man must appear insane. I shall join at at Delphi.

Fram Smith

PLEASE NOTE! REMUDA IS A PAYED OUT OF AREA PERSON . PLEASE BE ADVISED OF THIS FACT ...HE IS PAYED TO SAY FOOLISH THINGS THAT HAVE NO BASIS IN FACT. REMUDA, PLEASE GO COMMENT ON YOUR OWN CONGRESS PERSON, IN YOUR OWN PAPER- YOU ARE NOT FROM KERN COUNTY- NONE OF THIS IS ANY OF YOUR CONCERN.

Nevermind

Are you saying he's full of horse doodoo?

Valleywoman

Who are these people (commenting on this post)?

Citizen Kane

Bob,-"California nut crops may fare better than wine under Chinese tariffs
Rabobank report says U.S. pork industry may be hit the hardest under new tariffs by China As new Chinese tariffs on U.S. agricultural products go into effect, economic analysis suggests impacts to California producers may be moderate at the most.The largest unknown at this point will be what China does to moderate U.S. exports through Hong Kong, which currently are not assessed the same tariffs, says Roland Fumasi, vice president and senior analyst with Rabobank. It’s only those products direct-shipped to China that are subject to the tariffs, he says". (Source-https://www.westernfarmpress.com/crops/california-nut-crops-may-fare-better-wine-under-chinese-tariffs). WHAT? THE RESNICKS AGAIN? They alrady got al the water in that fake drought scam where millions of gallons of water was diverted out into frisco bay as DEvin Nunes who LOOKS OUT FOR HIS CONSTITUENTS AND THE REPUBLIC AS WELL, proved in his groundbreaking investigative video "Dead Harvest" which nobody in the "media" bothered to investigate. Only a bigger water scandal than Chinatown by a few fathoms, and this one was as real as that one was.

theoracle

Communist Kane, perhaps you might try a little less verbatim quoting and more of your words. Reads like a jr. high essay trying to 200 words. "........"

REMUDA

Once again, squinty-myopic, bipolar Bobbo P. is supporting his fave 'politician'--HISOWNSELF! No politico is perfect (except 'Homeboy-Bob') . . . but at least McCarthy is always welcome at the WH (including those who would detract from POTUS' mission in CA--Wall, Agri-Seaports, Law, MakeCaGrtAgin!). "Never-Bin-To-DC Bobbo", it's not a "DOUBLE LIFE" . . . ! It's a singular vision focused further upstream AND downstream than you ever woulda, coulda, shoulda (or wishtu) ever be able to see . . . as your OP-thal-Mol-ogist/Shrink knows.

Oh . . . & recently heard on the BAKO Street. . .!?

Bobby P. says: "My psychiatrist told me I'm going crazy".
So he challenged her, "If you don't mind, I'd like a second opinion."
Shrink says . . . "OK...You're ugly too!"
(Rodney Dangerfield)

GaryJohns

The Bovine Fecal Effluvia just kept flowing forth from Bobby Price….

REMUDA

it's called "Bravo Sierra" in the Navy . . .

Citizen Kane

And to Kalifornia's own Jerry the Brown-Clown we say-ALPHA MIKE FOXTROT! Street parties are already planned in communities across the California Republic and dignitaries from across the globe are expected when California FINALLY says "Adios" to no ones beloved Governor. Finaly California can wash off that "stayed at the circus too long" feeling we've had under this dark cloud of socialist buffoonery called the Brown Clown. Jerry-From us all-"Don't let the door hit you on the A** on your way OUT!" C-YA!

Sheebe

No offense, until Farmers get it in their heads that Democrat party could careless. They should vote Red. If we get another idiot Democrat for Governor we are cooked. I know this is about McCarthy. I didn't want to vote for him. I don't want a Democrat in there so I held my nose and voted for him. I chewed him out on a Facebook post a week ago. Told him that I really didn't want to vote for him. Is more than farmers that he is neglecting. Yet a lot of farmers hire illegals. Which tax payers like myself pay for them. Am fed up with that. So they are worried? China has screwed us enough. Trump has done a lot for our country. More than any sitting President has ever done. The Democrats are not for the working people. They are for the lazy people. Ones that want it all for free. Not work for it. Let us hope things work out for the farmers. I get tired of hearing about the farmers. In Santa Maria, Ca. Many farmers have ones with Green Cards. They come and do their job. Go home until next harvest. Is that so hard for farmers here to abide by? Their success is important. Do not get me wrong. At whose cost though? Maybe McCarthy will bout for them. Don't hold you're breath on that one though. McCarthy is in for the money only. Another Swamp creature. I have a good feeling that Trump will come through. If not. what can one do?

REMUDA

Agree all above . . . but . . . "Money only"? Well, biz guys get it (Don & Kev).

McCarthy's driving a "Swamp Buggy" thru the deadliest Gator and Croc-infested DC backwaters ever at speeds we CA's never though possible. From Hometown firefighter's son & a sandwich counter w/frig in aunt/unk's yogurt snop (Kevin O’s Deli) . . . thru CSU Bako . . .

It's no longer . . . "BIKERSFELD"! "WHERE'S THAT . . . ?"

theoracle

You're comments are on "Trumpet" exemplifies a new type of nut from our local crop.
Have you worked a farm field for one day? Enjoy you $8 head of lettuce.

Vavoom

"trump has done alot for our country"... lol, you would be a great representative at his rally... that he holds when his thin skinned sociopath self needs validation. how do you know "In Santa Maria, Ca. Many farmers have ones with Green Cards. They come and do their job. Go home until next harvest." fake ideas, fake news!

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