NewsCovering Kern County


Republican political consultant Mark Abernathy dies

Posted at 2:22 PM, Jan 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-30 00:59:09-05

Mark Abernathy, Republican political consultant behind the success of many local politicians, died Saturday.

Maggie Abernathy posted the news on her Facebook page on Sunday.

Congressman Kevin McCarthy released the following statement on the death of Abernathy.

"Judy and I are devastated at the passing of Mark, who had been a mentor, adviser, and most of all, a close and trusted friend. Mark epitomized love for community and his neighbors. He was passionate about how to strengthen Bakersfield, our Golden State that he adopted, and our nation. He has been a fixture of local and state politics for decades, providing wisdom to countless elected leaders including myself. Mark is leaving this community, state, and country a better place. But I will most remember him for his deep faith, and his immeasurable love for Cathy and their two daughters, Margaret and Madeleine. Our community is with them during this time of grief." 

Senator Jean Fuller also released a statement following the passing of Mark Abernathy.

"I am saddened to hear about the passing of Mark Abernathy. He was a loving father and husband, and a political genius whose impact will be felt for years to come. Russell and I pray for his family and share their tears during this time of mourning."

Assemblyman Vince Fong released a statement saying Mark Abernathy inspired him to dig deeper into his interest for politics at a young age. (See video above)

Mark Abernathy's office sent 23ABC this biography.

"Mark Abernathy was born August 23, 1942 to parents Edwin and Barbara Abernathy.  He grew up on his family’s farm in Concord, Illinois, with his brother Mike and sister Jill.  This is also where his lifelong devotion to Cardinals baseball began.

He graduated from Western Illinois University (Macomb) with degrees in agriculture and biology. 


Mark served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force from 1968-72.  He was stationed in Korat, Thailand during the Vietnam War as an electronic warfare officer in the 553rd Air Reconnaissance Wing.


After the war, while stationed in Sacramento at McClellan AFB, Mark started his foray into politics.  He ran successful county campaigns and initiatives.  Mark was Chair of the Fairlake Young Republicans club when he met his future wife, Cathy Swajian, who herself was a California “Nixonette” Chair.  Together they built the largest Young Republican organization in the state.  During that time Mark ventured into small business and real-estate and built his first multi-unit housing complex.


Cathy and Mark married in 1981 and he moved to Bakersfield shortly thereafter.  Mark continued running local Republican campaigns.  Cathy remained chief of staff for Congressman Bill Thomas for the next 20 years while Mark built his political operation with Western Pacific Research (WPR), running nearly 350 candidates for local, state and federal office and party office with a 97% victory rate.  Mark especially enjoyed mentoring young people who interned or went on staff as part of his WPR operation, teaching them to understand and appreciate our nation’s founding documents as he did with the candidates he ran.  Mark’s faith in God shaped his Worldview and drove his passion in politics and to help improve the lives of others. 


One of his greatest political accomplishments came in 2002 and 2003, when Mark along with Ted Costa of Sacramento conceived of and led the successful recall of Governor Gray Davis – drafting the recall petition, gathering hundreds of thousands of necessary signatures, and building a statewide campaign that eventually ousted Davis and helped elect Arnold Schwarzenegger to office.  It was the first successful recall of a California governor in 100 years, and was described in December 2009 as the “one event [that] shaped California politics more than any other in this decade.”[1]


Over the years, Mark was the campaign consultant to Kevin McCarthy, managing his campaigns for Kern Community College Board, State Assembly and U.S. Congress and for McCarthy’s predecessor Congressman Bill Thomas.  He managed the successful campaign of Devin Nunes for Congress and State Senator Jean Fuller, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, Assemblymen Vince Fong and Trice Harvey, Supervisors Zack Scrivner and Mick Gleason, Kern County Assessor Jon Lifquist, Mayor of Bakersfield Karen Goh, former Mayor Bob Price, Bakersfield Councilmembers Jacquie Sullivan, Ken Weir, and Bruce Freeman, and Mike Hestrin for Riverside County District Attorney.  Two candidates Mark respected deeply but were unsuccessful were Ann Gutcher for State Senate and Pedro Rios for State Assembly.  Mark was an elected member of the Kern County Republican Party and a 25-year delegate to the State GOP as well as to one national GOP convention.


Mark’s business interests included real estate development, rental properties in some of Bakersfield expanding neighborhoods, and redevelopment of Downtown Bakersfield where he operated JC’s Place, until recently.  Mark is survived by his wife, Cathy Swajian Abernathy, and two daughters, Margaret Abernathy, an attorney in Washington DC, and Madeline Abernathy, a junior at Bakersfield Christian High School.  He was a member and elder of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Bakersfield.


Services are pending.