CENTRAL VALLEY – Although his name will appear on the primary election ballot under two offices, current California State Assemblymember Vince Fong is adamant that he is running for Congress — and only Congress.
Fong is one of 11 candidates vying to take over former Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s seat in the House of Representatives, which represents portions of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties through the 20th Congressional District. He is also the sole candidate listed for State Assembly District 32.
When McCarthy announced he would be stepping down from office at the end of 2023, Fong first said he would continue to seek reelection to the State Assembly, but on Dec. 11, 2023, he reversed that decision. Fong said he believed there was a need to keep a conservative Valley representative in Congress, and so he entered the race.
“We need experienced, tested and trusted individuals to represent our region in Congress, and I believe I’m that person,” Fong said. “I am eager and ready to take that fight to Washington and deliver meaningful results for our community.”
Raised in Bakersfield, Fong has represented Kern and Tulare counties in the State Assembly since 2016 — first for District 34 and then for District 32 beginning in 2022, after the districts were redrawn. Prior to that, he worked for McCarthy as his district director for nearly 10 years.
After weeks of circulating questions over Fong’s eligibility for the election — given that he had already filed his declaration of candidacy for the State Assembly — he was successful in his court challenge to the California Secretary of State’s determination that he could not run for Congress. The Secretary of State, Shirley Weber, said she would file an appeal to that ruling, but no action on that has been announced yet.
Due to the way California’s primary elections are structured, Fong could move on to the general election for State Assembly if he is one of the top-two vote getters. Write-in candidates are able to run in the State Assembly election, but the official filing period closed in December 2023, and there is no system in place to have Fong remove his name from that race.
“There’s candidates that are jumping into the running process, and so I do believe that there will be additional candidates that will be running for the Assembly, and I look forward to seeing who those candidates are and hopefully supporting them,” Fong said.
Write-in candidates can proceed to the general election if they are among the top-two vote getters. Additionally, if there is no candidate nominated in the primary, the independent nomination process can be used.
Fong has said that if he is elected to Congress, he will resign from the State Assembly. Regarding a possible situation wherein Fong is elected to the Assembly but not to Congress, he doubled down on his statement that the only office he is running for is the House of Representatives.
“It’s unfair to engage in hypotheticals, but I am running for Congress; that’s the only office I’m running for, and I hope to win,” Fong said.
Some of the most prominent topics Fong has centered his campaign around include the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, improved forest management, the cost of living and the need to invest in hospitals.
For specific issues facing Central Valley residents, Fong said that he feels he can have more of an impact on public policy — especially that involving the border and affordability issues — as a representative in Washington, D.C.
“You look at what’s happening with the fentanyl crisis and human trafficking, what’s happening on the southern border, … the affordability crisis in our state (and) inflation that has made everything more expensive — all of that has been driven by reckless spending out of Washington, D.C.,” Fong said.
Fong said there is a need to improve the business climate in California by reducing taxes and regulations and that there needs to be more investment in water infrastructure and energy production.
“Our inability to do that is directly a consequence of that public policy coming out of Washington,” Fong said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and every single day we see the consequences of that policy on Central Valley residents coming out of Washington. I want to go back to D.C. and fight for our rights and fight for our region.”
Fong also plans to run in the special election for the 20th Congressional District to fill out the rest of McCarthy’s term in office, which is through January 2025. The special election primary will be March 19, with a possible run-off election to follow on May 21.
The race for the regular Congressional election is chock-full of candidates — many of whom intend to run in the special election as well — including no-party preference candidates T.J. Esposito and Ben Dewell, Democrats Marisa Wood and Andy Morales and Republicans Mike Boudreaux, David Giglio, Kelly Kulikoff, Matthew Stoll, Kyle Kirkland and Stan Ellis.
California’s primary elections will be held on March 5, with the general election to follow on Nov. 5. County elections offices must begin sending out vote-by-mail ballots no later than Feb. 5, and ballot drop-off locations open Feb. 6.