McCarthy is new Majority Leader

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

The meteoric political ascent of Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy continued last week when House Republicans chose their former whip as the new Majority Leader.

McCarthy replaces Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, whose loss to an obscure candidate in the June primary sent shockwaves through the political landscape. After Cantor and several other high-profile Republicans endorsed McCarthy as his successor, the Bakersfield native sailed through all but uncontested to a secret-ballot selection.

In accepting his new role in leadership, McCarthy promised his colleagues he had “the courage to lead and the wisdom to listen.”

With division inside the Repub-lican Party (to say nothing of the broader political polarity in Congress), McCarthy has been identified by commentators as having the potential to heal the breach between nonconciliatory ultraconservatives and a leadership that has historically been nontransparent.

Before McCarthy became the second-most-powerful man in the House, he fought a hard battle in Kern County to win the 2002 primary for 32nd District Assembly.

Thanks in part to his strong support in Ridgecrest, McCarthy beat Bakersfield politician Mike Mag-gard to make the leap from top staffer for Bakersfield powerhouse Bill Thomas to California legislator.

Within two years McCarthy was selected as state Republican Whip. In 2006, he cinched the party nomination for the congressional seat formerly held by Thomas and subsequently won that election.

Within his first year he was identified (along with Cantor and Mitt Romney’s former running mate Paul Ryan) as one of the rising stars to watch among House conservatives. McCarthy was elected to whip in 2010 — going in eight years from a political staffer to one of the most powerful men in Congress.

But McCarthy continues to point to his humble beginnings (which included opening a deli at age 19 while he was attending college) as the shaping stone for his political career.

“Growing up in our community, I’ve learned many important lessons,” he said in a statement prepared following his election last week to Majority Leader. “I’ve learned the value of hard work, and that you should always be the first in the room and the last to leave, and that no matter what, decisions will be made with or without you — so you should always have a seat at the table.”

He said he was humbled by the new opportunity at the leadership table, and that he will ensure the commonsense values of his district are represented in Washington D.C.

“I have lived my entire life right here in our community,” said McCarthy. “It is where I met my wife, raised our children — all in the first house we ever bought — and it is where I learned my conservative values.

“It is with great pride and humility that I have been entrusted to serve on your behalf every day. I believe strongly in our country’s ability to overcome any challenge, and I will continue to work in Congress fighting for solutions to help our neighbors and communities.”

Other locally elected officials immediately offered their congratulations to the Kern County leader.

State Sen. Jean Fuller, a frequent collaborator with McCarthy, said last week that “Kevin’s well-deserved and hard-fought rise to prominence in the U.S. House of Representatives is historic and a direct result of his commitment to the communities he serves.

“Kevin is one of the hardest-working members of Congress. He uses his time traveling to and from Bakersfield on a weekly basis to study policy issues and determine strong political strategies. I am always impressed with his strong grasp of issues on both a national and local level,” she said.

“I look forward to what Kevin will accomplish as the second-highest-ranked member of the House.”

“I’m so proud of Kevin and proud for Kern County,” said Assemblywoman Shannon Grove. “I am fully confident in Kevin McCarthy’s leadership to do the job and do it far better than many people expect.

“Knowing Kevin — his vision, his abilities and his heart — I’m encouraged that we may see breakthroughs soon on some of the important issues that we all want to see. We are blessed that our nation has a system of government that allows a true man of the people to rise up and to do the people’s work.”

“Congratulations to my good friend Kevin McCarthy,” said Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason. “I look forward to continuing our work and commitment to the issues facing our constituents in the Kern River Valley and the Indian Wells Valley. This is a historic day for all of us.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy gets a military escort during a 2012 speaking engagement in Ridgecrest. - News Review file photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2014-06-25