High stakes, intrigue envelop Congress and Assembly races

Editors note: This article was updated 12/23/23 at 12:15pm to reflect a statement by Assembly member Devon Mathis

With no term limits in Congress, and State Assembly term limits set at 12 years, open seats in Sacramento and Washington DC are a rare commodity.

But for the upcoming 2024 election, Tulare and Kern County voters will have two — and possibly three — open seats on their ballots.

What started in October as a fairly uneventful election cycle of incumbents gearing up to defend their seats, is now a messy, litigious — and now exciting — battle, especially in Representative Kevin McCarthy’s district.

The 20th Congressional District (CD20) held by McCarthy since 2006, and 33rd State Assembly District (AD33) held by Devon Mathis for 10 years, are now open and up for grabs.

Vince Fong, currently representing the 32nd Assembly District (AD32), is fighting the California Secretary of State for the ability to run in the CD20 race to replace McCarthy — should his effort succeed, his district would be up for grabs as well.


In September, Mathis said that he intended to defend his seat and hold it until his term limit prevented him from running again — and strongly endorsed his Chief of Staff, and fellow veteran, Matthew Tuttle in a potential future campaign to take the AD33 seat.

Tuttle is currently a Reedley City Council member.

In November, that calculus changed when Mathis came out to endorse Alexandra Macedo, a newcomer. Macedo is the daughter of Tulare’s former mayor, the politically well-connected David Macedo — whose political friends and allies have given Mathis little support in the past.

Mathis clarified that he is friends with the former mayor, “David has been a great ally and has even been the auctioneer at many of my events.”

Mathis gave few reasons as to why he was retiring two years early except to say he was ready to try something new and wanted to be closer to his kids and avoid constant travel to Sacramento.

Though the Tulare Portuguese community does not vote as a bloc, Mathis earned some ire when he beat Rudy Mendoza, former Rep. Devin Nunes’ protégé, twice — once in 2013 and again in 2015.

A few days after Mathis announced he would not run for AD33, and Macedo issued her press release declaring her candidacy, Tulare Health Care District Trustee and conservative Republican Xavier Avila filed his paperwork to run for the same district.

Avila is also a trustee on the Tulare Public Cemetery District.

Avila has always been an ardent supporter of Mathis and expressed his displeasure to an associate that Mathis did not give him a heads up that he would be retiring.

Though Avila comes with a lot of baggage, he has much more political experience than Macedo, who has never held nor run for office.

Macedo’s campaign manager, Duane Dichiara of Sacramento, is a man of extremely few words when dealing with constituents. Dichiara works for the consulting group Axiom Strategies, the former campaign strategist company for Presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.

There isn’t as much drama on the other side of the aisle. Three Democrats are vying to make it through the primary, but the district is heavily Republican, so it’s likely the two Republicans will be facing each other in the General Election given California’s “top two” primary system.

The three Democrat candidates are: Angel Ruiz, a first-generation immigrant and advocate for civil and labor rights; Ruben Macareno, former Farmersville City Council member and current Farmersville School Board Trustee; and Hipolito Cerros, the youngest Lindsay Mayor ever.

This will be Macareno’s fourth time filing for the assembly seat, having run in 2014, 2016 and again in 2022.

Who is to blame for the mess called CD20?

The race for CD20 started on October 5 when a rogue gang of eight Congressional Republicans voted to remove McCarthy from his position of House Speaker.

Not feeling the love, McCarthy announced on December 6 that he was retiring from office. Because most of the voters in his district are in Kern County, Fong and State Senator Shannon Grove rose to the top of the list of most likely to run — and most likely to win.

But McCarthy made his announcement only two days before the December 8 deadline to file for candidacy.

Fong had already submitted his paperwork to retain his AD32 seat, allegedly unaware his mentor was going to resign. Even if Fong had prior knowledge McCarthy was going to resign, he likely didn’t want to challenge Grove, who was widely assumed to throw her hat in the ring.

Grove didn’t face the same filing dilemma as Fong because her state senate seat isn’t up for re-election until 2026, but she waited until Saturday, December 10 to announce she had decided not to run for McCarthy’s seat.

Because McCarthy had not filed to run again, the filing date was extended five days to December 13.

On Monday, December 11, Fong went to the Kern County Registrar of Voters, collected his signatures, filed his paperwork, and took the oath of candidacy for CD20.

Soon after Fong declared his candidacy, McCarthy gave him his full endorsement.

Four days later, the California Secretary of State’s Office said that Fong may not run next year for the 20th Congressional District because he already filed for reelection to the state Assembly.

Officials said that once the paperwork is submitted and accepted, a candidate cannot officially withdraw from the race.

Because Fong could not withdraw from his AD32 race, nor could he run for two offices at the same time, making his candidacy for the second office — CD20 — void.

Fong immediately declared his intention to fight the decision.

“We fully intend to litigate this decision and will be filing a challenge in Superior Court imminently,” he said.

David Giglio, a Madera greeting card shop owner — candidates for Congress do not have to live in the districts they serve — who had already decided to challenge McCarthy because he felt the speaker had betrayed his party, threatened to sue the state if officials allowed Fong to run.

Kern County might lose their representation in Congress

The political missteps not only lead to legal limbo but could possibly leave Kern County without representation in Washington.

CD20 is a district dominated by Kern County, but the person with the most name recognition and discernible track record outside of Fong is Tulare County’s Mike Boudreaux.

Without Fong in the race, Boudreaux is a likely winner.

Tulare County hasn’t had representation in Congress since Devin Nunes retired because, through redistricting, it was cut up between CD20, CD21 and CD22.

The possible election of Boudreaux would be a very unexpected boost for Tulare County in Washington, and with the strength of incumbency, could last for a very long time.

Though many constituents feel McCarthy was unjustly booted from his position as Speaker of the House, his resignation leaves Republicans with a razor thin majority in the House.

5 thoughts on “High stakes, intrigue envelop Congress and Assembly races

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  1. The Republican Way

    McCarthy announced on December 6 that he was retiring from office only two days before the December 8 deadline to file for candidacy. Fong allegedly was unaware “his mentor” was going to resign and he had already filed his paperwork to retain his AD32 seat. Grove waited until Saturday, December 10 to announce she had decided not to run for McCarthy’s seat. What we’ve got here is Republicans failure to communicate with each other….. which is easy to understand since their standard mouthpiece was too busy communicating about his own campaign and other legal issues and didn’t give two hoots and a holler about anyone or anything else in the Republican Party. What else is new!

    In September Mathis said that he intended to defend his seat however come November he announced that he was “looking into trying something new” and would not seek another term. A few days later Alexandra Macedo (a political newcomer) announced her candidacy and strangely out of the blue for no particular reason Mathis came out to endorse her. Macedo’s father is the politically well-connected David Macedo and whose political friends and allies have given Mathis little support in the past. Meanwhile Mathis’ friend and one of his most “ardent” supporters THCD Trustee and trustee on the Tulare Public Cemetery District Avila had also filed for Mathis’s seat. He is quoted later expressing his displeasure to an associate that Mathis had not given a heads up that he would be retiring. Ouch! Perhaps on the part of Mathis could it possibly be something along the lines of deal that was too good to refuse? And if so, then one should question who offered what? One could also say again that the level of or lack thereof when it comes to communications between fellow party members, I guess is truly the Republican way.

  2. As a democrat I didn’t care for Kevin McCarthy. He shouldn’t gone to Maro Largo after Jan 6 and kissed Trump’s ring. (I guess he forgot Trump caused the riot while he was in the capital?) He made mistakes but I think he was treated very unfairly by his fellow republicans when he ran for speaker and was speaker. But, he should have stayed and fought against the wackos in his party. Now, whoever wins will be (just another 3rd rate congressman) in a group of 535 instead of ex-speaker who had clout.

    • The Beavis of Bakersfield got punked by the Butt-Head of Floriduh.
      MaCarthy’s main accomplishment as Speaker seems to be keeping George Santos in Congress for a while.

  3. When you elect clowns, you can’t expect anything less than a circus. Hey, CD20 – let’s try something different. Vote blue this time!

  4. Mathis is just a loser. Guy has zero skills to be a representative of the people. It’s embarrassing.

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