If a politician can be a community’s favorite son, Bakersfield’s political prodigy Kevin McCarthy may once have fit that description.
For many, the 53-year-old career politician still fits the role of the “golden boy,” despite the silver-gray hair crowning his open, youthful face.
But despite being one of the fastest-rising stars in the political firmament, McCarthy has also faced crushing defeat and disappointing setbacks.
For years considered one of the GOP’s “young guns” in the U.S. House of Representatives, McCarthy has twice been on the cusp of being elected by his peers to the most prestigious position in Congress’ lower chamber: the office of Speaker of the House.
Twice the speakership has been denied him, first in 2015 when a verbal gaff and rumors of an affair appeared to lead to his decision to suddenly drop out of the race just weeks after announcing his candidacy.
Then, on Election Day 2018 it happened again.
Thought by many to be the heir apparent to retiring Speaker Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, McCarthy's hopes were dashed by voters across the nation Tuesday when they removed dozens of Republicans from Congress and handed over control of the House to Democrats.
For the second time, dreams of a McCarthy speakership were shattered.
A call and a text to McCarthy’s cell phone were not returned Tuesday night and an email to a McCarthy spokesman likewise received no response Wednesday.
“Deservedly or not, McCarthy will get the blame for losing the House,” Mark A. Martinez, the chair for the Department of Political Science at CSUB, said Wednesday. “Trump will eventually throw him under the bus.”
Despite the GOP’s loss in the House, as well as several governor’s races, President Trump claimed a “great victory” for Republicans who held onto the Senate and even gained seats while losing only one in Nevada.
House Majority Leader McCarthy, who flew to D.C. Tuesday morning, wasted little time in making his move by launching a bid for the post of minority leader, Politico reported Wednesday.
Conservatives in Congress are also seeing their chance by calling on Republicans to elect Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a co-founder of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, as minority leader.
Jordan beat McCarthy to the punch, announcing Tuesday morning he was running for the post. Still, conventional wisdom gives McCarthy the edge.
In a letter sent to House Republicans on Wednesday, McCarthy said he has the knowledge and experience to reverse Tuesday’s loss.
"I helped build a majority from a deeper hole than this and I have what it takes to do it again," McCarthy said in the letter. "That is why I have decided to run for Republican Leader and humbly ask for your support."
Could the now veteran politician from Bakersfield get a third chance at the brass ring? It would take another "flip" in control of the lower chamber.
"It's hard to walk away from the leadership once you've been there," Martinez said. "There are a lot of benefits.
The Capitol offices are much bigger, for one thing.
"He'd like to remain part of the mix," Martinez said of McCarthy. "One might even say he'd like to remain relevant."
If McCarthy wins the minority leader position and ranking Democrat Nancy Pelosi is elected again to the speakership, it would be the first time in history that the two opposing party leaders in the House were both from California.
In fact, never before have these two important posts — minority leader and speaker — been held by members from the same state at the same time.