BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Kern County voters are helping decide two races with national implications this year. The race for California's 23rd U.S. Congressional District is seeing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy face off against challenger Kim Mangone. The 21st District is seeing a rematch between incumbent TJ Cox and former congressman David Valadao.
“I think they’re both important races for different reasons," said Bakersfield College Professor Allen Bolar.
Most experts, including Bolar, agree that one of the races is a sure-fire victory for republicans because McCarthy's district is reliably red.
“Do I know that for a 100% theoretical fact? No. But I know that about as well as I know anything in politics. He will win the election," Bolar said.
Even if McCarthy wins, it doesn’t guarantee his spot as House Minority Leader. It will be up to House Republicans to vote on who their leadership will be in 2021.
As far as the 21st district goes, that race will be a rematch between incumbent Democrat TJ Cox and former congressman Republican David Valadao.
“The 21st district was probably the closest race two years ago in the entire country," Bolar said.
Just 862 votes separated the two in 2018, and it’s expected to be another tight race this year. You’ve probably seen political ads for both candidates. Both parties seeming to spend big in order to secure the seat. Bolar says Cox, although the incumbent, doesn’t quite have an incumbent advantage because he’s only been in office for two years, whereas Valadao, who previously held the seat for six years, may have a little more name recognition.
“It’s a very good race in terms of both candidates are viable, both candidates are going to have supporters that are turning out for them, and both parties are going to want to win that race badly," Bolar said.
23ABC asked Bolar how likely it is that the house could be flipped republican this year. He says because republicans would need to regain 21 seats across the country, that would be unlikely. In fact, he believes that it’s more likely that the democrats expand their majority.