Appeals Court Lets Assemblyman Fong Run for McCarthy’s Seat in Congress

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The Bakersfield Republican will be on the ballot in two races in November: his own bid for reelection plus the 20th Congressional District contest.

Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong can run for retired former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s vacant seat, a California appeals court decided April 9.

In a 3-0 decision, the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento rejected California Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s attempt to keep the candidate off the ballot.

Mr. Fong, 44, a state assemblyman from Bakersfield, a central California city about 110 miles north of Los Angeles, was endorsed by Mr. McCarthy to replace him in Washington, D.C.

He is also running for reelection to the State Assembly. Tuesday’s decision will allow Mr. Fong to remain on the ballot for both races in the general election in November.

Mr. Fong leads a slew of candidates in the primary election, followed by Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, 57, also a Republican.

The two candidates are set to face off in November.

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For the May 21 special election to serve out Mr. McCarthy’s term, Mr. Fong also holds a lead over Mr. Boudreaux.

Mr. Fong said Tuesday’s decision was another victory for voters.

“Today’s ruling is yet another victory for the voters of the 20th Congressional District, who have now had their right to select the candidate of their choice upheld by the courts, twice,” Mr. Fong said in a statement provided to The Epoch Times. “This decision puts an end to the unnecessary and ill-advised campaign in Sacramento to deprive voters of a real choice in this election.”

Tuesday’s court decision ends the latest legal challenge from Ms. Weber, who removed Mr. Fong from the ballot in December, claiming he couldn’t run for the seat because he had already filed for reelection as an assemblyman.

Mr. Fong sued the secretary of state over the removal, and Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang ruled in his favor in December.

In an appeal filed in January, the state argued that if Mr. Fong was elected to both seats, it would cause voter confusion and the disenfranchisement of voters.

During the appellate hearing April 4, Seth Goldstein from the California Attorney General’s Office told judges they had several options, including removing Mr. Fong from the general election ballot and ordering a new election, according to the McClatchy News Service.

Mr. Fong’s attorney, Brian Hildreth, told judges at the hearing that removing him from the ballot now would disenfranchise voters.

Responding to the April 9 ruling, Ms. Weber  suggested legislation was needed to avoid similar future situations.

“We disagree with and are disappointed with the Court of Appeals ruling,“ Ms. Weber said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times. ”The opinion runs contrary to California history and practice. Both the Court of Appeals and trial court recognize this ruling leaves the door open to chaos, gamesmanship and voter disenfranchisement, and disadvantages other candidates.

“My office sought to avoid such problems through this litigation,“ she added. ”This ruling highlights the need for legislative attention. We are carefully considering all our options.”

The deadline to certify the primary election results is April 12.

Mr. McCarthy retired Dec. 6, 2023, after he was ousted as speaker by the Republican Caucus in the House of Representatives.

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