BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — This June and November, voters in Kern will face a slate of options. 17 News is sitting down with Kern’s candidates so the county can make informed decisions.

We are turning to Kern’s 20th congressional district which stretches from Bakersfield to the Fresno suburb of Clovis. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) is the incumbent in this race. He is facing a slate of challengers in Marisa Wood (D), Jim MacCauley (R), James Davis ‘The Deviant’ and Ben Dewell.

A closer look at Kevin McCarthy

Now one of the most powerful politicians in America, 57-year-old Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy says he never forgets his roots.   

“I will always continue to fight for Kern County, I will always listen,” he said. “We may not always agree 100% but I will listen to you and tell you what we’re trying to do and accomplish.”  

The son of a firefighter, McCarthy married his high school sweetheart and raised two kids. Before entering government, he says he owned a business, Kevin O’s Deli.  

His political journey started with an internship with Bakersfield Congressman Bill Thomas. He went on to serve on the Kern Community College District and the state Assembly before coming to Congress in 2006.  

In 2019 McCarthy became House Minority Leader putting him in charge of the entire GOP caucus in the chamber.  

“From every aspect of every issue going forward, from stopping inflation, making America stronger, from gas prices, the economy, Americans trust the Republicans to do it,” he said.

The position made him the highest-ranking Republican in the House, and one of the most influential lawmakers in America. But taking on the role during the Trump administration, he inherited a difficult balancing act, managing more moderate members with those further to the right.  

Recently, he’s been under heat for the behaviors of some of those members. Just last month, representatives Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene participated in an event organized by a white nationalist activist Nick Fuentes. The two were removed from their committee assignments by Democrats and a handful of Republicans for their previous actions last year. McCarthy told 17 News he would give them a chance to earn those spots back. 

“There is no place for a member to associate with Nick Fuentes, they said they will never associate with him again,” he said. “They have a right to be able to earn a right and we’ll see that in the next Congress if they have earned it.”  

Perhaps nothing shows the divide in the party quite like Jan. 6, with 10 House Republicans members voting to impeach the former president for his role. Others say former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss was illegitimate.  

McCarthy himself has a close relationship with the former president, breaking with Trump on occasion. A week after Jan. 6, McCarthy said the former president bore some responsibility for what took place that day. Soon after he visited Trump at his personal residence.   

Since then, the former president and some GOP members in the House have blamed Nancy Pelosi for Jan. 6, saying the panel investigating the attack should look into her role that day.  

“I am focused on the issues people care most about and when we do that, we also have accountability to hold this Administration accountable,” he said when asked about the idea.

Now, McCarthy is seeking another term in an election that could make just two steps away from the presidency as speaker of the house. Some GOP House members question if he has full support from the very conservative Freedom Caucus, votes he needs enough of to win the role.   

“They’ll be able to cast those votes when the time comes,” McCarthy said. “My job is to actually turn this country around. Focus on the issues that people care most about: rising gas prices, inflation, the crime in our streets, homelessness out there, jobs and the economy.”  

Those are some of the issues McCarthy wants to take on if sent back to Washington, and the same ones he says should be at the forefront of the GOP’s 2022 midterm platform.

McCarthy’s approach stands in contrast with the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnel, who has not laid out a legislative agenda. 

“I have a disagreement with Mitch McConnell on that, I think elections should be about issues,” McCarthy said.

Locally, he says, his attention is on water and energy independence.  “Those are the things I am working on. Those are the things I am concerned about.”  

Extended interview