House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, speaking in a welcoming address to California Republicans on Saturday, said that after their successful but protracted fight over the gavel, both he and the Republican Party emerged as a stronger political force. tough and formidable in Washington.
McCarthy had to make numerous concessions to the most conservative members of Congress to win the presidency, and even then it took 15 rounds of voting, the first time in a century that a speaker was not elected on the first ballot. He called the experience, a show that was presented on live national television, a test from God.
“He just thought we’d be stronger going through it,” McCarthy told hundreds of delegates and guests at a California Republican Party luncheon, his first address to the state party since winning office.
McCarthy did not mention former President Trump, with whom he has a complicated relationship. He was an early ardent supporter of the real estate baron turned reality TV star during the 2016 campaign, prompting Trump to call him “my Kevin.”
But McCarthy was furious with the then-president for failing to put down the insurgents who breached the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. That was followed by a series of conflicting statements about the president’s responsibility for the violence, first publicly blaming him and then saying Trump did not incite the mob.
Nearly a year ago, audio recordings surfaced of McCarthy telling other Republican leaders in early 2021 that he planned to urge Trump to resign during the final days of his presidency. But recently, McCarthy decided to turn over some 41,000 hours of security video from Jan. 6 to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who used the footage to fuel an effort to explain the deadly attack on Capitol Hill.
The California Republican Party remains home to a large number of Trump supporters, some of whom were upset by McCarthy’s criticism of the former president after Jan. 6.
“To be honest with you, I really don’t think I’ve handled it as well as I should have,” said Elvira Moreno, a 54-year-old delegate from Orange County.
She said she should have discussed her differences with Trump privately to present a united front: “With him not supporting his friend, if they were ever friends, just from what I saw, I didn’t feel like he made a strong decision. stop.”
But Moreno, who wore a Trump lanyard and brought a photo of herself with McCarthy from a previous convention, said she was proud to see the Bakersfield native rise to become second in line for president. . She also supported actions he has taken since he became a speaker, including ousting Democratic Reps. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, Eric Swalwell of Dublin and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from congressional committees.
“He is showing us that he is doing the job,” Moreno said. “Accountability is very important, transparency. What he said was really what he wanted to hear as a Californian, as a person involved for more than 35 years.”
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Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland, who recalled entertaining and hosting poker nights when he shared a Sacramento home with McCarthy and Doug LeMalfa when the trio were in the state legislature in the early 2010s, said he was proud to McCarthy and that he was not surprised that it was successful. .
“I said, ‘He’s going to be the speaker, I don’t care if it takes 100 votes,’” Strickland said. “He is a fighter and, frankly, he works well with people, but when he makes up his mind, he fights. I think a lot of members of Congress and a lot of people here really appreciate that fight.”
They were among the roughly 500 attendees who purchased $250 to $350 luncheon tickets to see McCarthy, who did not speak to the media during the event. Some spent an extra $500 to go to a VIP reception with the speaker and have their picture taken with him.
McCarthy’s speech included popular Republican touchstones such as strengthening the border, expanding parental rights, supporting law enforcement, opposing China and mocking Gov. Gavin Newsom’s hairstyle while criticizing the Democrat’s spending priorities, including funding for the California bullet train.
“The only thing that I think Gavin spends more time on than he is on the high-speed train is his hair,” McCarthy said.
Although the state Republican Party does not yet have a prominent candidate for the US Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, McCarthy criticized one of the leading Democratic contenders, Schiff, who has earned the ire of Republicans because of his role as a representative. Trump’s main Democratic enemy.
“He should never become a senator,” McCarthy said, arguing that Schiff “stirred the ball” on issues like foreign policy and the supply chain.
The speech was the main event of a relatively quiet three-day convention at the Hyatt Regency.
No presidential candidate attended despite the state’s primary being held in less than a year, with California fielding the most delegates of any state in the nation. Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker referred to the 2024 presidential race as a “crusade” during an invocation Saturday.
Former Rep. Devin Nunes, who left Congress to run Trump’s social media company, was supposed to speak Friday night but was canceled due to weather concerns. Two members of Congress spoke in his place, and three more spoke Saturday night, including newly elected Rep. John Duarte of Modesto and Rep. Michelle Steel of Seal Beach, who overcame a challenge in a narrow district that includes swathes of Los Angels and orange counties.
Those election results were some of the few reasons to celebrate for a party that last won state office in 2006, and whose voters are outnumbered nearly 2-1 by Democrats.
Republicans would not have their five-seat majority in Congress without these two victories, plus three other California elections in 2020, McCarthy said, as he called for the re-election of state party chair Jessica Millan Patterson during the internal elections of the Sunday match.
“The last two cycles, we’ve done nothing but win,” McCarthy said, ignoring the lack of success across the state and the party’s dismal performance in last year’s ouster of Newsom.
Millan Patterson, a McCarthy protégé whom he first urged to run for the party’s seat in 2019, is expected to easily win re-election.