BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The race to win big in the 2024 election cycle is well underway, especially right here in California.

KGET’s Jenny Huh spoke one-on-one with the chairwoman of the California Republican Party on what the GOP is gearing up for.

A big focus for both parties is retaining and gaining congressional seats, as Republicans try to keep their majority in the House of Representatives with an ousted Kevin McCarthy.

Currently, the GOP holds a 9-seat majority, five of which are key California districts the party picked up in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles.

And those five seats are eyed by both parties. For Democrats, they’re places President Biden won in 2020.

“We’re going to [try to keep the seats of] Congresswoman Young Kim, Congresswoman Michelle Park Steel, Congressman Mike Garcia, Congressman David Valadao and Congressman John Duarte,” said California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessia Millan Patterson.

She later added, “Speaker McCarthy did a phenomenal job of recruiting candidates that fit their district and represent them well.”

But Democrats have been criticizing those five, saying they voted for far-right representatives Jim Jordan and Mike Johnson during the speaker elections.

In the mix are the Central Valley’s David Valadao and John Duarte.

Recent reports are hinting Valadao may be at risk, with his 22nd congressional district now considered a toss-up by Cook Political Report.

Valadao’s district, which includes parts of Kern County, is already primarily Democratic and Hispanic.

Republicans, including Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson, argue the district has long been a toss-up and that the news is nothing new.

“Senator Hurtado just got into this race,” the chairwoman said, referring to one of Valadao’s Democratic opponents. “She barely won her Senate race the last time around. We’ve already beat Rudy Salas once.”

Salas is another Democratic candidate for the district.

But Dan Gottlieb of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) wrote in a newsletter Valadao is a “hypocrite whose convictions change at the whim of his party’s dysfunction.”

Valadao’s office declined to comment on whether his re-election campaign stands compromised, instead referring 17 News to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Ben Peterson, a spokesperson for the NRCC, countered Gottlieb ‘s comments in a statement to 17 News: “These partisan attacks don’t work because Central Valley families know David Valadao works with both parties to lower costs, secure water and support police. Voters in the Valley will re-elect David Valadao next year because they want solutions not D.C. political games.” 

Patterson attributed Valadao’s likelihood for re-election to his on-the-ground campaign efforts with his Central Valley constituents.

“We also have engaged with our community centers,” Patterson said, explaining some of Valadao’s engagement she views as successful. “We have our Latino focus community center in the Bakersfield area so that we can be there year-round. We’ve launched our Republican civics initiative where we are our staff has been trained by the Department of State to help people study for their citizenship tests. These are the types of things that we’re doing year-round to show up.”

And with Kevin McCarthy’s fall from power, the California GOP may be in some tricky financial waters.

McCarthy has long been a prolific fundraiser for the party, at the state and national levels.

In 2022, he pulled in a minimum of $550,000 for the California GOP alone.

It remains to be seen if those funds will continue, though Patterson expressed hope.

“[McCarthy] continues to be our biggest supporter and our greatest partner, so I am not worried about the resources in California,” the chairwoman said. “We’re going to do all of the work that’s necessary to do to keep those funds coming in, and Speaker McCarthy is going to be a big part of it.”

On his political future, the chairwoman added, “It doesn’t matter what title he has, he’s going to continue to work towards the things that make America great. And making sure that here in California, our candidates have the resources to pick up those five congressional seats that we did over the last two cycles.”

Patterson noted she’s in her current role at the request of the former speaker.

“So, you’re going to continue to see him work with those candidates to protect those seats, work with the candidates that he’s already recruited from the cycle,” Patterson said.

The GOP must now fundraise with new House Speaker Mike Johnson, who doesn’t have much of a track record on anything.

He’s the most inexperienced Speaker in modern history.