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California court affirms Kevin McCarthy protege’s dual candidacies on state ballot

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a decision that could leave voters doing a double take, a California court ruled Tuesday that a state legislator can appear as a candidate in two races on the November ballot — one for ex-Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s former U.S. House seat, and the other for the state Assembly seat that he plans to vacate if elected to Congress.

The ruling marked a victory for Assemblymember Vince Fong, a Republican who is a former McCarthy aide and the one-time speaker’s preferred successor in the Central Valley’s 20th Congressional District.

The decision will give district voters the “right to select the candidate of their choice,” Fong said in a statement.

The unusual dual candidacies stemmed from McCarthy’s decision to announce his retirement in early December, two months after his historic ouster as speaker and shortly before the deadline for candidates to file to run for the seat.

The announcement set off a swirl of political maneuverings that eventually led to a dispute between Fong and Democratic Secretary of State Shirley Weber over whether he could appear twice on the ballot. He earlier filed for reelection in the Assembly, but then changed direction when the coveted House seat came into play.

His campaign says he is only running for Congress, even though he also will appear in the Assembly contest.

A state court agreed with Fong in December. That ruling resulted in him appearing as a candidate in the House and Assembly races in the March 5 primary election, and also as a candidate in a separate, March 19 special election to complete the remainder of McCarthy’s term, which runs through January.

He advanced to the general election in the race for a full House term, and also advanced to a May election for the remainder of McCarthy’s term. He faces Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, another Republican, in both contests.

Weber had challenged the December decision and on Tuesday a state appeals court agreed with the earlier ruling, clearing the way for Fong to continue his House campaign.

“This decision puts to end the unnecessary and ill-advised campaign in Sacramento to deprive voters of a real choice in this election,” Fong added.

Weber said her office disagreed and was disappointed in the ruling, which she said broke from established practice. Her office is considering all options, she said.

Both court rulings open the way for “chaos, gamesmanship and voter disenfranchisement,” while disadvantaging other candidates, Weber said in a statement.

Michael R. Blood, The Associated Press

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