Special election to fill McCarthy’s seat set for March 19

Current candidates for the 20th Congressional District announce they will also seek office in the special election as Gov. Gavin Newsom sets a date for March

The flags fly in front of Sacramento's Capital Building
Serena Bettis
Published January 11, 2024  • 
9:00 am

FRESNO & TULARE COUNTIES – Central Valley voters will cast ballots in two Congressional elections this March after Gov. Gavin Newsom set the date for the special election to fill former Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s vacated seat. 

The special election for California’s 20th Congressional District will be held on May 21, with the primary scheduled for March 19, Newsom announced on Jan. 8. Eight of the 11 candidates currently running for Congress in the regular election have confirmed with the Mid Valley Times that they also intend to run in the special election. 

If a candidate receives a majority of the votes cast in the March 19 primary, they will be declared the winner and there will not be an election in May. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, the May 21 election will be a run-off between the top-two vote getters in the primary. 

Candidates may file “in lieu” petitions beginning on Jan. 8 and continuing through Jan. 16 if they wish to gather signatures in lieu of paying a filing fee. Candidates may file nomination papers and a declaration of candidacy with their local county registrar of voters office between Jan. 16 and Jan. 25. 

County elections officials have until 5 p.m. on Jan. 25 to certify and file candidate documents with the California Secretary of State. The Secretary of State then must send the certified list of candidates to county elections offices by Jan. 31. 

The race for the special election is happening at the same time as the race for the regular election, for which there will be a primary election on March 5 and a general election on Nov. 5. This is because McCarthy made an early departure from his term in Congress on Dec. 31, 2023, leaving a vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives for all of 2024. 

Any candidate elected to Congress in the special election will serve until January 2025, at which time the candidate who wins the November general election will take office. 

California’s 20th Congressional District is expansive, covering portions of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. It extends as far north as Millerton Lake in Fresno County and as far south as Edwards Air Force Base in Kern County.

Who’s running? 

The candidates who have confirmed they will run in the special election include Marisa Wood, a Democrat, Ben Dewell, who is listed as having no party preference, and Republicans Mike Boudreaux, Vince Fong, David Giglio, Kelly Kulikoff, Matthew Stoll and Kyle Kirkland. 

T.J. Esposito, who is also listed as having no party preference, said he is still considering a special election run, but had not made a definitive decision as of Jan. 9. Esposito said that he plans to wait and see who else is running in the special election before he makes his decision.

“If it’s a consolidated election, that may be more of a reason I’d jump in, because it’d be winner-takes-all,” Esposito said.

Democratic candidate Andy Morales and Republican candidate Stan Ellis were unable to be reached by the press deadline. 

Boudreaux, Fong and Kulikoff all currently hold public office; Boudreaux is the Tulare County Sheriff, Fong is the District 32 State Assemblymember and Kulikoff is the mayor of California City, a small community located in Kern County, southeast of Bakersfield. 

The Boudreaux and Fong campaigns both released official statements about their intent to run in the special election on Jan. 8, and Kulikoff told the Mid Valley Times directly that he intends to run as well. 

Wood, a teacher from Bakersfield, said that she is excited about the chance to run in both the special election and the regular election. 

“I believe that finally the playing field has been leveled, and this is an extraordinary opportunity to turn this district blue,” Wood said.

Giglio, a small business owner, said that he was also excited to run in the special election and have a chance to represent the Central Valley in Washington, D.C., sooner. Stoll, also a small business owner, said he’d be in the special election too.

Kirkland, a Fresno businessman, said in a statement that he is “pleased to see that the democratic process is being upheld with this special election,” and would be running in it to be a voice in Congress that represents “the values and needs of our district.”

According to the special election calendar on the Secretary of State’s website, voter information guides will be mailed by county elections offices in February, and vote-by-mail ballots for the special election will be sent out beginning no later than Feb. 19.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter