BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Representative Kevin McCarthy’s past runs deep in this Central Valley town, far from the glamor and wealth of his state’s metropolises to the north and south. Bakersfield is where he was born and raised, went to college, and ran his first business selling sandwiches behind his uncle’s yogurt shop on Stine Road.

But there are also glimpses of Mr McCarthy’s painful present.

The Republican divisions impeding McCarthy’s decade-long ambition to become speaker of the House are playing out both on the national stage in Washington and on an equally small one in his hometown and home district. California’s top Republican — one of the reddest cities in one of the nation’s worst-hit states — is easier to find opponents on her far-right flank than staunch supporters.

Mr. McCarthy still wins re-election with two-thirds of the vote in the district, but the passionate minority of the majority has become his sore vein, as it has been on the floor of the House this week.

“I think it’s great that there’s a bunch of Matt Gaetz that’s calling attention to what’s wrong,” said William Polowitz, 78, referring to the firebrand Florida Republican who tried to block McCarthy’s bid for speaker. Wale has been one of the far-right rebels. , Mr. Paulowitz, a retired businessman, dismissed his delegate’s run for speaker in a place the delegate knows all too well — outside Luigi’sA popular lunch eatery that has long been a part of Mr. McCarthy’s self-professed Bakersfield lore.

Mr. Polovitz’s wife, Cathy, 74, a real estate agent, said of Mr. McCarthy, “I don’t think he’s thinking about the people standing in front of Luigi.”

Spoiled by the now-vanished oil industry and powerful agribusiness conglomerates, Bakersfield remains a conservative bastion in a state ruled by Democrats, from the capital of Sacramento to the liberal bastions of the Los Angeles Basin and San Francisco Bay, whose popular culture And big tech represents everything that many conservatives think is wrong with America. A welcome winter rain has tamed the Central Valley’s dust, but high winds have whipped it down the city’s wide boulevards.

But the Bakersfield of Mr. McCarthy’s youth in the 1960s and 1970s is not the Bakersfield of today.

Mr. McCarthy’s old sandwich counter—Kevin O’s, tucked inside his uncle’s McCarthy’s yogurt—is long gone. It is now replaced by Pollos a la Brasa, a Peruvian restaurant in a dirty strip mall with Los Hermanos Market and Young Health Spa, a massage parlor. Told of Mr. McCarthy’s roots, José Gómez exclaimed, “Oh, of course not!” Mr. Gomez was unloading his delivery of crates of Modelo, Pacifico and Victoria beers on Thursday as Los Hermanos managers recovered from a power failure following an early morning thunderstorm.

Bakersfield and surrounding Kern County are now predominantly Latino, and Democrats are making inroads. Donald J. The erosion of white control and conservatism’s anti-authoritarian shift following the rise of Trump has helped spur a bitter shift in the right direction in several places, including Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“We’re not just more conservative — we’re more angry,” said Greg Perrone, chief financial officer of a geothermal energy service company and head of the Greater Bakersfield Republican Assembly, a conservative activist group.

The organization is Kern County’s answer to the House Freedom Caucus, a far-right House Republican group with no formal structure or membership list that has undermined and undermined Republican leadership since 2015.

Similarly, the Republican Assembly is an informal group with an about-the-inch ideology, but one that regularly harasses Mr. McCarthy — “the tyranny of the minority,” as Mark Salvaggio, a former Bakersfield city councilman and political activist, puts it. Independent, kept it.

Cathy Abernathy, a longtime Republican adviser in Bakersfield and a McCarthy aide who guided them through their first years as congressional interns, equated the group with Republican insurgents who blocked their ability to speak. calling both groups a “minority of a minority”. “Who’s Treating a New Babysitter Like Kids – How Far Can They Go?”

Republican assembly members say they are generally ideologically aligned with McCarthy, but like his ultra-conservative opponents in Washington, they see him as part of the establishment, and they do not trust him. Huh. Mr. Perron, the head of the group, said the congressman never attended any of its events.

“You would expect for a conservative organization, he would come over and say hello,” Mr. Peron said. “But the longer you’re in Washington, the longer you’re in Washington.”

Aides to Mr McCarthy did not respond to requests for comment.

Ahead of last year’s independent primary, he defended his ties to the region. “I will always continue to fight for Kern County,” Mr. McCarthy told A local TV station, KGET-TV, “I will always listen. We may not agree 100 percent, but I will listen to you and tell you straight what we’re trying to do and accomplish.

Ken Mettler, a former chairman of the California Republican Assembly, the state organization of the Bakersfield group, was practically gleeful about Mr. McCarthy’s struggles in the House. Mr. Mettler challenged Mr. McCarthy in the primary in 2016, and earned 13 percent of the vote. Since then he has been targeting his Congress leader.

Mr. Mettler uses the same language as Mr. McCarthy’s biggest Republican opponents in the House: a connoisseur on the outside but a “hatchet man” behind the scenes; “a creature of Washington” who has spent his time building his power base rather than the party.

For Mr Mettler, Mr McCarthy’s public humiliation over his search for the speaker’s hammer is “karma”.

“He spent so much time, money and Republican coffers against Republican members, he was part of the reason why there was a red wave in November,” Mr. Mettler said. “But enough Freedom Caucus Patriot-types survived, so the chickens have come home to roost.”

Mr. McCarthy was one of three self-proclaimed “Young Guns” of the 2010 House Republican leadership, along with Eric Cantor, the former House Majority Leader, and former Speaker Paul D. with ryan. The “Young Guns” cultivated the Tea Party movement, only to eventually turn on them, defeating Mr. Cantor, driving Mr. Ryan into retirement and blocking Mr. McCarthy’s first run for speaker in 2015.

After the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Mr. McCarthy went to the House floor to blame Mr. Trump for the riot. But he voted against Mr. Trump’s impeachment and then, within days, traveled to Mar-a-Lago to make amends with the former president.

If Mr. McCarthy is responsible for anything, it is a lack of foresight, said David Bynum, a former college intern in Mr. McCarthy’s office who is now a Republican consultant and McCarthy supporter in Bakersfield. Mr. Bynum said the Republican leader knew he had a problem with his far-right wing after Jan. 6, but did nothing to fix it.

“They’ve had a year or two to figure it out,” Mr. Bynum said. “The party had two years to say, ‘Hey, if Kevin can’t walk the line, who can?’ But no one is coming forward.”

Mr. Barnum said, if Mr. McCarthy is ultimately denied the gavel, he thinks Mr. McCarthy will not seek re-election. “There will be a great loss to the community, but many people are not smart enough to realize it,” he said.

Ms. Abernethy said the Speaker of the House has the ears of the President, regardless of the party he represents. There is a need for security of two big military bases in the district. The oil industry could use a boost, and California’s water wars have only intensified with a prolonged drought. The West’s vast federal irrigation system is sandwiched between the farmers of the Central Valley and the environmentalists, fishing industry and cities of California.

Mr. McCarthy, always affable, has built up a lot of local goodwill. Teo Medrano, 62, called him “a very nice guy” when he went to Donna Kaye’s cafe for breakfast. But he said he is not closely watching the speaker’s performance.

“They’re going to make the right decision for her,” he said with a hilarious wave.

Another sentiment is less altruistic: Mr. McCarthy has long ago focused his attention on national power and forgot about Kern County. Mr Salvaggio, the former city councillor, pointed to a Veterans Outpatient Clinic Mr. McCarthy has been promising Bakersfield for more than a decade — and he still hasn’t materialized.

“It doesn’t matter who’s there,” said Shawna Kidwell, 42, waiting a table at Luigi’s. “Politicians are all the same.”

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