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How do Kevin McCarthy's constituents feel about him abruptly leaving Congress?


Kevin McCarthy made history this year as the only House speaker to be removed in a vote by his colleagues.


And now he has decided to leave Congress entirely, announcing this week that he will resign by the end of this year, which means he won't be finishing his term.


KEVIN MCCARTHY: We did our part. And when the stakes were the highest, we rose to the challenge. We were willing to risk it all, no matter the odds, no matter the personal cost.

INSKEEP: So that's how McCarthy cast his departure. But what do people think in his district around Bakersfield, Calif., which McCarthy represented for more than a decade? Joshua Yeager covers that area for our member station KVPR, and he's on the line. Good morning.


INSKEEP: What are you hearing around the district?

YEAGER: Well, a colleague and I ran around talking to constituents here. McCarthy may be a political lightning rod nationally, but here he's really well liked. Some voters were disappointed to see his own party throw him out. Len Reinhart (ph) is a Republican, and he questioned the party's direction.

LEN REINHART: I just don't like their future. Just, like, they're too bickering in there, and they're just not as strong as they used to be, I think.

YEAGER: In recent months, though, some Trump supporters I spoke to in Bakersfield had begun to sour on McCarthy. He was caught between the factions of a deeply fractured party.

INSKEEP: OK. But who wants to replace him now?

YEAGER: A lot of people. As soon as he was removed as speaker this fall, candidates began lining up to challenge him. McCarthy's loss of support within his party has unleashed a political feeding frenzy here. Candidates on both sides of the aisle lined up to run for this hotly contested seat after he was removed as speaker. There are about half a dozen - some Democrat, some Republican. David Giglio is one of them. He's a self-described "America First" Republican, and I called him up.

DAVID GIGLIO: Kevin represents everything that's wrong with politics. He's made a lot of promises, and he really hasn't delivered much for the Central Valley and for the nation.

YEAGER: All of these candidates were planning to run for the seat in 2024. Now that McCarthy is leaving, the governor could call a special election sooner. That's up to him. Candidates who want to run for the congressional term that would start in January 2025 have until next week to file, according to the California Secretary of State office. Adding to the uncertainty over who will succeed McCarthy is whether or not California Governor Gavin Newsom decides to hold a special election once McCarthy officially exits.

INSKEEP: OK. So there's a lot of uncertainty here, but what we do know is that McCarthy was a big figure in his party for a moment. What does his departure mean for Republicans?

YEAGER: Well, in Congress, it makes the House Republicans' majority even smaller. McCarthy has also been a fundraising giant for the party. He says he plans to continue supporting Republican candidates across the country, but the GOP will no doubt feel their purse strings tighten come this next election season.

Now, Democrats may be tantalized by the possibility of flipping a seat held by a former Republican leader and House speaker, but their chances are slim. Even with McCarthy gone, this district is still one of the reddest in California. Trump carried by some 10 points here in 2020.

INSKEEP: Joshua Yeager of KVPR, thanks so much.

YEAGER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Joshua Yeager