Taking Back the House, Vol. 17: Kevin McCarthy and California’s 23rd District


This is the seventeenth edition of a research project at PoliticusUSA known as Taking Back the House. You can check out the previous edition here. The purpose of this project is to analyze each Republican Congressional district in the United States and see how likely the district can go ‘Blue.’ To do this, I will take a look at the overall demographics of the district, as well as review the historical voting patterns and the record of the Congressperson representing the district. This series will run until we’ve looked at every single district in the country, which should take us right into the 2014 campaign season.


Congressional District: California 23rd District


U.S. Representative: Kevin McCarthy


Population: 707,345


Median Household Income: $51,232 (National Average: $51,017)


Unemployment Rate: 14.3% (National Rate: 7.3%)


Gender: 48.8% Female, 51.2% Male (National Percentages: 50.8% Female, 49.2% Male)


Age: 11.1% 65 and over (National Percentage: 12.8%)


Race: 75.8% White, 6.8% Black, 5.2% Asian, 1.4% American Indian (National Percentages: 72.4% White, 12.6% Black, 4.8% Asian, 0.9% American Indian)


Ethnicity: 64.6% Non-Hispanic, 35.4% Hispanic (National Percentages: 83.6% Non-Hispanic, 16.4% Hispanic)


Urban/Rural Population Split: 87.1% Urban, 12.9% Rural (National Split: 82% Urban, 18% Rural)


District Voting Patterns: Due to redistricting, the 23rd District is nowhere near the same location as it was prior. Before the maps were redrawn in 2011, the 23rd District was located on the Pacific coastline between Oxnard and Monterey counties. Now, the district is located around Bakersfeld, in the central part of the state. In essence, the 23rd District is what the 22nd District was, with some small changes. McCarthy was first elected in 2006 and has served in Congress since.


In his first election in the new 23rd District in 2012, McCarthy won with little trouble, as he defeated independent Terry Phillips by 46 points. This was pretty much par for the course for McCarthy, as he has yet to deal with a serious race. Twice he’s run basically unopposed and he won his first election in 2006 by getting over 70% of the votes. McCarthy succeeded Republican Bill Thomas, who decided to retire after 28 years in office. McCarthy was a former aide of Thomas’s.


As for Presidential elections, this district went for Mitt Romney in 2012 by a margin of 25 points. In 2008, John McCain carried the same district lines by the same 25-point margin.




Congressional Activity by McCarthy: McCarthy has been the House Majority Whip since the Republicans took back the majority in 2011. He also serves on the Financial Services Committee. As a member of the House Republican leadership, he is supposed to set a good example for the rest of the Republican caucus, as well as try to round up enough votes to make sure a bill we be passed prior to it hitting the floor. As such, per OpenCongress, he has voted with his party 95% of the time, usually only straying when leadership is forced to put a bill on the floor without the majority of Republican support (i.e. raising the debt ceiling and reopening the federal government in October.)


As far as McCarthy’s positions on a number of issues, he is something of a slippery character. He generally keeps his head low on hot-button social issues like same-sex marriage, abortion and gun control. While he will tend to vote with the Republican majority on these issues, he is not outspoken about any of them and really doesn’t discuss them at length. As for immigration, he opposes ‘amnesty’ for any undocumented workers, but once again, he has tried to not use harsh rhetoric when discussing the matter. However, the fact is that while he may seem somewhat compassionate, his voting record shows a very conservative member of Congress. The National Journal ranked him as the 70th most conservative member in 2012 and the 25th in 2011.


Notable Quotes by McCarthy: 


“This bill is fiscally irresponsible, and raises questions on the constitutionality of several provisions in the bill. Where do we go from here? The fight to improve health care must not end with this government takeover of health care bill, which is fiscally irresponsible and raises constitutional questions that will likely head to the courts. We could have done better and actually worked to reduce health care costs, address preexisting conditions, and make common-sense insurance reforms that the American people want, instead of passing this Government-knows-best bill.” — Statement from McCarthy on March 21st, 2010 after the Affordable Care Act was passed.


“As a nation founded by immigrants, we should continue to embrace the individuals who wait in line and come to the United States legally to work hard and contribute to our society. However, we should not provide any amnesty that would benefit those who defy our laws and enter the United States illegally. In order to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in our country, we must enforce the laws that already exist. In order to do this, we must secure our border by using both physical as well as electronic barriers. We should also ensure that illegal immigrants are not receiving any of the benefits that are reserved for American Citizens.” — Statement on April 9th, 2012 regarding immigration and ‘amnesty’.


Odds of District Going Blue in 2014: Low. Demos would appear to be somewhat favoring Democrats here, but I just don’t see it happening. Yes, it is true that Hispanics make up over a third of this district. Also, unemployment is very high. However, based on the level of support McCarthy has gotten in this district, as did Bill Thomas before him, it just seems very unlikely that the Democrats can put out a viable candidate to give a well-financed McCarthy any kind of serious run in 2014. Perhaps an overall dissatisfaction with Congress and its leadership could be a potential negative to run against McCarthy. Yet, it seems like this area is years away from making a possible switch to Blue.


Justin is the Managing Editor and a Contributing Writer for Politicus Sports, PoliticusUSA’s very own sports site. You can check out the site here

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