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 Marisa Wood

Middle school teacher and first-time congressional candidate, Marisa Wood, entered politics with the hope of taking down one man.

“I have the courage to stand up to the bully Kevin McCarthy, career politician,” she said. “I ask my students every day, I’m like be the one, be the one to stand up to the bully and now, ironically, I’m being called to do just that.”  

The daughter of a teacher, Wood grew up in California’s Bay Area. She met her husband, John — who works in agriculture — while in college at California Polytechnic State University. Together, they moved to Bakersfield where they raised three kids on an apple farm.

“I am from here, California 20, the Central Valley, Bakersfield has been my home for over 35 years,” she said. “And like the people here, like you, I’m angry.”

Now on her early 60s, Wood has taught English at Fairfax Junior High for the last two decades. That’s where she says she saw she could make a difference.

“Eight eight percent of my students receive free and reduced lunch, 10% are from migrant families, 13% are homeless, so I have faces and hearts that I’ve seen that are struggling,” she said.

It could be an uphill battle for Wood, a Democrat, in a deep-red district in which Republicans out-register Democrats by a margin of about 21 percent. Not to mention, an area where McCarthy has never lost a congressional election.  

“I have hope,” Wood said. “It’s not a fantastical hope or a fairytale hope.”

Wood says she wants to be involved in legislation addressing education and labor, specifically mentioning she supports President Biden’s infrastructure bills and the farmers modernization act, which she says ensures the agriculture industry can have a sustainable workforce.

“The folks here, they don’t need a handout,” she said. “The folks here in California 20, they just need a hand. A hand in tackling those kitchen table issues that matter most to them.”

Among those issues, Wood cites the rising price of groceries, housing, healthcare and gas prices as some she most wants to tackle. Wood ran through a list of people in the district: single parents, veterans, the working class, seniors, women, people of color, LGBTQ community.

For them, she says she has one message: “I will be your voice,” Wood said.

17 News invites everyone running for office in Kern to speak with us about their candidacy.