Some question how much Congressman Kevin McCarthy has done for his district while rising in Washington, especially compared to his predecessor, Bill Thomas, who secured some $630 million in federal transportation money for local road projects in 2005.
So we asked around: What has McCarthy done for the people back home?
Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard:
• McCarthy has brought high-level attention to the area’s stubborn valley fever problem, the repercussions of which are still ongoing, Maggard said.
In September 2013, McCarthy brought the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health to Bakersfield for a valley fever summit, where they announced the launching of a major clinical trial to get a better understanding of how to treat the illness.
• McCarthy’s office has made “diligent” efforts to get veterans their healthcare, medals and other honors. “He has a real passion for veterans in our community,” Maggard said.
State Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield:
• In addition to helping vets, Fuller said McCarthy has been invaluable in getting her access to federal regulators and members of the California congressional delegation who are key to securing federal help on water, specifically efforts to increase water storage and move water around.
• She said he has also opened doors to top-level brass at the Pentagon when she’s needed their ear on issues important to the military bases in her sprawling district.
“Maybe I could get some appointments myself but to have Kevin able to get the top guys is just really helpful,” Fuller said.
Treva Elliott, former McCarthy Assembly staffer:
• Elliott said it was very hard for Republicans to accomplish much in Sacramento because they have no power there “and haven’t for decades.”
• Back home, she said, McCarthy made constituent work a top priority. Back in McCarthy’s Assembly days, a lot of people were out of work and the system was “overloaded” with requests for unemployment checks, Elliott said. McCarthy made sure his staff helped people secure their money.
“We were constantly on the phone with Sacramento trying to shake those checks loose so people could pay their rent and feed their children,” Elliott said.
Cheryl Tierce, who is active in local Democratic Party politics:
• Tierce complained McCarthy’s Bakersfield office hasn’t been as accessible as it should be. She said she used to go there once a month to drop off a letter or talk to staff about whatever the big vote in Congress was at the moment.
Starting about October 2013, the doors were frequently locked, she said, and often staff wouldn’t open the door. She said she stopped going after about eight or nine months of being locked out.
“I decided to stop wasting my time,” Tierce said.
Tierce said McCarthy, as a House leader, could be doing much more on the big issues facing the district.
“I’d like to see some jobs bills. I’d like to see something done about air quality,” Tierce said. “I’m angry about the many, many attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. His vote to defund Planned Parenthood is disappointing.”
Asked to respond, McCarthy said his staff has had to lock the office in the past when protesters have overrun it. He said a couple times the office has shut down due to security threats.
A reporter who dropped by Friday found the doors unlocked.
As for his political views and votes, McCarthy said he’s sometimes going to differ with some people in his district but he “will always listen.” He said he holds tele-town hall meetings nearly every month.
Cal State Bakersfield political science professor Mark Martinez:
• There’s no doubt McCarthy wields a lot of power and influence in Washington, Martinez said, “but when it comes to actual achievements at this point, there’s nothing to speak of.”
• McCarthy said he’s helped develop a whole strategic plan to fight valley fever that includes the clinical trial, federal action to speed up valley fever drug development and establishment of a congressional valley fever caucus. He hinted new news on the clinical trial will be coming out soon.
• He listed House passage of the Space Act, which is designed to encourage private sector investment in and create stable regulations for the commercial space industry. McCarthy is working to secure Senate support.
• McCarthy said he’s helped Edwards Air Force Base and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake expand physically and in hiring.
• And he said he’s worked on drought legislation, including ongoing discussions with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. (Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, said the House has passed several drought bills that just haven’t gone anywhere in the Senate).
This past week, McCarthy was lead author of a letter signed by many GOP federal and state legislators asking the president and governor what’s being done to capture El Niño water and to prevent the kinds of storm damage that hit Kern County two weeks ago.
“Not one bill comes to the floor I don’t touch,” McCarthy said, adding he’s always thinking about what each could mean for his constituents.