Jul 13, 2024  |  
 | Remer,MN
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Alex Miller

NextImg:McCarthy’s choice to replace him can’t legally run for Congress under California law

Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s exit from Congress at the end of the year means that his district will need a replacement to fill out the rest of his term, but the outgoing lawmaker’s choice to replace him can’t legally run for Congress. 

Republican California Legislator Vince Fong’s short-lived bid to replace Mr. McCarthy in the state’s 20th district was halted on Friday when the California Secretary of State announced that his candidacy wasn’t allowed under state law. 

The hiccup in Mr. Fong’s candidacy stems from the last-minute nature of Mr. McCarthy’s retirement. Mr. Fong, who previously served as Mr. McCarthy’s district director, opted to not run and filed for reelection in his local district because another lawmaker, State Sen. Shannon Grove, was expected to run. 

But Mrs. Grove decided against a run for Congress, and Mr. Fong hastily threw his hat into the race for the soon-to-be vacant seat. Mr. McCarthy endorsed him earlier this week. The deadline to file or withdraw from a race was Dec. 8, and Mr. Fong filed to run for Congress on Dec. 11.

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber said that under state law, a candidate cannot file nomination papers for more than one office in the same election. 

“As such, the Secretary of State’s office has determined that Mr. Fong’s filed nomination papers for Congressional District 20 were improperly submitted,” Mrs. Weber said. “Mr. Fong will not appear on the list of certified candidates for Congressional District 20 that our office will transmit to county election officials on candidates on December 28.”

Mr. Fong rebuked the Secretary of State’s decision, calling the move “an unprecedented interference in the candidate filing process.” He plans to sue, noting that a lawsuit would be filed imminently. 

“Voters in the 20th Congressional District have a right to choose the candidate of their choice to represent them in Congress,” Mr. Fong said. “I will fight the Secretary of State’s misguided decision and do whatever it takes to give voters in our community a real choice in this election because the voters choose our elected officials, not Sacramento.”

Mr. McCarthy’s seat is not the only impending vacancy in the House. Rep. Bill Johnson, Ohio Republican, and Rep. Brian Higgins, New York Democrat, are slated to leave the lower chamber early next year. 

Expelled former lawmaker George Santos’ New York seat is open, but will be filled after the conclusion of a special election on Feb. 13. Former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi will face local Republican legislator Mazi Pilip for the seat that Mr. Santos flipped in 2022. 

• Alex Miller can be reached at