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Kevin McCarthy’s Real Foes: A Horse Breeder, an Ex-Cop and 12-Time Candidate

Kevin McCarthy is a Republican from California. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Kevin McCarthy is a Republican from California. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Regardless of the result of Thursday’s leadership vote, it’s unlikely House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy will suffer the same electoral fate as his colleague, Majority Leader Eric Cantor  — at least this cycle.  

The Virginia Republican’s surprise primary loss on June 10 and subsequent decision to step down paved the path for McCarthy, who has emerged as the front-runner for the majority leader gig.  

Back home in California’s 23rd District, McCarthy’s opposition is nearly nonexistent. No candidates qualified to appear on the June 3 primary ballot with McCarthy in this solidly Republican district. In California, the top two vote recipients on the primary ballot, regardless of party, proceed to the general election.  

But four write-in candidates registered to run in the district, and the one who has received the most votes will appear on the ballot as McCarthy’s challenger in November. Officials are still tabulating the results, which will likely be available on July 1.  

In the meantime, Republican Mike Biglay, Libertarian Gail Lightfoot, and unaffiliated candidate Ronald Porter all said they are eager to take on McCarthy in a hypothetical November matchup. Democrat Raul Garcia could not be reached for comment.  

If nominated, Biglay plans to challenge McCarthy’s conservative credentials.  

“It’s made history that a tea party guy knocked out a majority leader, but it would really make history if it happened twice in one year,” Biglay said. The first-time candidate has worked as a teamster and dabbled in professional horse breeding.  

Lightfoot boasts the most campaign experience of the candidates. In a phone interview, the retired nurse said she has appeared on the ballot 12 times, including bids for president, Senate, and California secretary of State. Lightfoot called Cantor’s loss “a sign that people are fed up.”  

Porter plans to run on his knowledge of the Constitution, which he said comes primarily from self-directed study. Porter referred to himself as a former police officer who teaches private classes about the Constitution.  

“I’m not bragging, but I probably understand the original intent more than almost anybody you’ll run into,” Porter said.  

The candidates speculated McCarthy’s bid for majority leader could be a double-edged sword, raising the four-term representative’s national profile but making him appear out of touch with constituents.  

Porter said Cantor’s defeat and McCarthy’s ascension “probably would help” his campaign.  

They have a tall — some might say impossible — task ahead of them. McCarthy enters the general election with more than $2.8 million in cash on hand and a track record of crushing opponents. He got more than 70 percent of the vote in 2012.  

The race is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg Report/Roll Call.

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