Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) hails from Bakersfield in the Central Valley. But local Republicans are divided about his prospects as Speaker of the House, as McCarthy emerges as the likely candidate to replace John Boehner, who announced his resignation last month, effective Oct. 31.
The division is largely between local agricultural interests, who see McCarthy as a potential ally on water and immigration issues, and the local conservative voting base.
“Many conservatives thus see McCarthy as Boehner 2.0,” notes John Ellis of the Fresno Bee. He describes a county Republican Party that is split over McCarthy’s future.
Ellis quotes Barry Bedwell, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association, saying: “The bottom line, this is a tremendous opportunity for California and, specifically, the San Joaquin Valley.” Ellis also quotes local conservative Serafin Quintanar, declaring: “He’s part of the problem.”
McCarthy has played a key role in pushing for greater water relief for the Central Valley, mostly without success. He has also been a prime opponent of the costly high-speed rail project, launched by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, which even environmentalists oppose as a colossal waste of money. Rep. McCarthy helped block further federal funds to the project after Republicans took the U.S. House back in 2010.
The high-speed rail received $3 billion from the 2009 stimulus, which created few jobs but rewarded Democratic Party pet projects–and helped launch the Tea Party in opposition.
Jeff Morales, Chief Executive of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, told Reuters: “Our current plans do not assume any new federal money…We would obviously welcome it but we’re moving forward based on what we’ve got and based on state and private funds.”
The GOP’s “moderate business wing,” Ellis writes, favors McCarthy–and local business leaders argue that it would be worse for the area if the next Speaker of the House were someone who did not understand the Central Valley’s concerns. But conservatives argue that unless McCarthy pursues a more aggressive political posture than Boehner did, he will be as ineffective as his predecessor, Ellis notes.
The vote for Speaker will be held on Thursday.