Sheriff Mike Boudreaux suspends congressional campaign for Kevin McCarthy's former office

Left, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux. Right, Assemblyman Vince Fong.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, left, said he is dropping out of the race to represent California's 20th Congressional District and endorsing his opponent, Republican Rep. Vince Fong. (Associated Press)

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, considered the outsider candidate in the Central Valley congressional race to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, said Monday that he is dropping out of the race and endorsing his opponent.

Boudreaux threw his support behind Rep. Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield), who beat Boudreaux in a May special election to complete McCarthy's term and was sworn in to Congress last month.

The two men were set to square off again Nov. 5 for a full two-year term in Congress. The 20th Congressional District, the most conservative in California, runs through the agricultural San Joaquin Valley between Bakersfield and Fresno.

"While we were on opposite sides of this campaign, at the end of the day, we're Republicans," Boudreaux told his supporters in a Facebook video. "We're family men, and fighters who are committed to protecting individual liberty, reducing the cost of living and maintaining safe communities for our neighbors."

Boudreaux, who has been the sheriff of Tulare County for more than a decade, said he isn't planning to leave politics. He announced the launch Monday of Golden State Justice, an organization that he said will "help steer support to candidates and commonsense leaders focused on delivering a safer, stronger and more vibrant Central Valley and California."

McCarthy, Fong's former boss, resigned from Congress last year after being voted out as House speaker. He was a major influence in the race to replace him, lending his connections and significant fundraising prowess to help boost Fong.

Fong raised $1.7 million and also received nearly $1 million in support from a McCarthy-linked political action committee. He also secured an endorsement from former President Trump, widely seen as orchestrated by McCarthy. The endorsement was a coup for Fong, who has largely avoided the culture wars that dominate factions of the GOP and sought to win over right-wing Republicans skeptical of the political establishment.

The Bakersfield political establishment that helped to elect Fong, Boudreaux told his supporters in May, is "a machine that is so powerful that it’s very challenging, to say the least.”

The 20th District race was marked by months of legal confusion over whether Fong was eligible to run because he had already filed to run for reelection to the state Assembly. Fong said he was blocked from withdrawing from that race by Secretary of State Shirley Weber, a Democrat, who argued that the deadline to do so had already passed. She also said that state election law barred candidates from running for two offices at the same time.

Fong’s campaign sued Weber and won in court in Sacramento County and again in the 3rd District Court of Appeal.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.