9 candidates vie for House District 20 special election

California Secretary of State publishes certified list of candidates for special election to finish out former Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s term

(Rigo Moran)
(Rigo Moran)
Serena Bettis
Published February 8, 2024  • 
10:30 am

FRESNO & TULARE COUNTIES – The official ballot is set for the 20th Congressional District special election, which is slated to take place just two weeks after the regular election primary. 

Nine candidates are in the running to take over former Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s seat in the United States House of Representatives, according to the official certified list of candidates released by the California Secretary of State on Jan. 31. Candidates in this race will serve the remainder of McCarthy’s vacated term through Jan. 3, 2025. 

The primary special election is scheduled for March 19, and ballots will be mailed out separately from regular election ballots beginning no later than Feb. 19. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the top-two vote getters will move on to the special general election scheduled for May 21. 

If a candidate does receive a majority of the votes, they will automatically win the special election and be sworn into office shortly thereafter. 

Five of the candidates running in the regular election are also running in the special election. They include Democrat Marisa Wood, Republicans Mike Boudreaux, Vince Fong and Kyle Kirkland and no party preference candidate Ben Dewell. 

Candidates who are running in the special election but are not on the certified list of candidates for the regular election include no party preference candidates James Cardoza and David Fluhart, Republican Anna Zoe Cohen and Democrat Harmesh Kumar, who is also running for the full U.S. Senate seat.

The last day to file as a write-in candidate is March 5. 

Both the special and regular elections for the 20th Congressional District have been full of candidates since McCarthy announced he would be leaving office in December 2023. Fong, who currently represents State Assembly District 32, was endorsed by McCarthy early on and has been touted as the frontrunner of both elections.

Candidate backgrounds

Wood is currently a public school teacher from Bakersfield. She ran against McCarthy in the 2022 Congressional election and lost with just under 33% of the vote. 

Boudreaux is from Porterville and is currently the Tulare County Sheriff, a position he was first elected to in 2014. Fong, who was raised in Bakersfield, was elected to the State Assembly in 2016 and worked in McCarthy’s district office prior to that. Kirkland is a Fresno businessman and is the owner of One Club Casino. 

Dewell is a meteorologist who lives in Kern County. He ran as a Democrat in the 2022 Congressional primary. 

Cardoza is originally from Tulare and currently lives in Fresno. He is a real estate photographer and, as a no party preference candidate, describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially moderate. Fluhart is a cannabis grower from the Sierra foothills in Kern County. 

Cohen is designated as a high school employee from Bakersfield, according to the certified candidate list. Kumar is a clinical psychologist and has listed mental illness as a central part of his campaign platform.  

Voting in the special election

The 20th Congressional District includes portions of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. Voters in the district will receive two separate ballots this March; the special election ballot will only have the Congressional race on it. 

According to the Secretary of State’s primary election calendar, ballot drop off locations will open by Feb. 20. Feb. 27 is the final day for county elections offices to mail voter information guides for the special election. 

The last day to register to vote in the special election is March 4. 

In Fresno County, in-person vote centers will open on March 9 for early voting. In Tulare County, the county elections official must designate the in-person polling locations by Feb. 19.

On March 19, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and hand-delivered vote-by-mail ballots must be received by 8 p.m.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter