Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced his resignation, and Republicans are wincing at the long window before his seat is filled.
California law says the governor must schedule a special election for a U.S. House seat between 126 to 140 days after it is vacated.
That means the seat would remain vacant until near Memorial Day, with a general election likely on May 20, 2024.
First, California will conduct a nonpartisan blanket primary, in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election.
The winner of the general election would be seated within days of victory.
The small window ties the hands of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), who would prefer to schedule the election later to keep the reliably Republican seat — which Cook Political Report ranks R+14 — vacant as long as possible.
Republicans will miss McCarthy’s vote during marquee legislative battles of the first half of 2024. Foremost among those, the first deadline for funding the federal government is January 19, with the second deadline on February 2. Congress bifurcated a massive bill to continue government spending, leading to two deadlines weeks apart.
Congress may extend the current deadline to reauthorize Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Section 702 to a time within the window when the seat is vacant. That vote is expected to be contentious, with privacy advocates on both sides of the aisle calling for significant reforms.
McCarthy’s announcement comes less than a week after the House expelled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) and ahead of the expected departure of Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), who has been offered a lucrative university post.
After McCarthy’s departure, the makeup of the House is projected to be 220 Republicans and 213 Democrats, giving Republicans little breathing room.
California last held a special election in 2022 for the 22nd congressional district. That vacancy occurred when Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) resigned in January 2022.
Newsom scheduled a special election for June 7 of that year following a blanket primary in April. Republican Connie Conway won the seat in the special election but did not seek to run for a full term. That seat is now held by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA).
Bradley Jaye is a Capitol Hill Correspondent for Breitbart News. Follow him on X/Twitter at @BradleyAJaye.