The California Republican is the favorite to score one of the most powerful jobs in America.
By Nick Gass; 10/08/15 05:13 AM EDT
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is the odds-on favorite to be elected the next speaker of the House, a post that would make him one of the most powerful elected leaders in America and second in line to the presidency. But McCarthy remains a relatively obscure national figure, in part because he hasn’t been on the Washington scene for that long — less than 10 years.
His nascent bid for the speakership has been rocky, mostly because of his boast last week that the House Select Committee on Benghazi has hurt Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. He has since apologized for the hyperpolitical remark, and remains the Republican most likely to garner enough support from his fellow lawmakers to score the job.
Here are nine things you should you know about the 50-year-old Republican from Bakersfield, California:
1. He is the first Republican in his immediate family: McCarthy’s mom and dad were members of the Democratic Party. Asked by Fox’s Chris Wallace in a June 2014 interview how he became a Republican, McCarthy cited “philosophical belief” tied to his upbringing in the time of President Ronald Reagan.
2. He got rejected by his local congressman for a summer internship: “I didn’t know the guy, but I thought he would be lucky to have me, right? So I applied and he turned me down. You know what the end of the story is? I’m now elected to the seat I couldn’t get the internship for. It’s only in this country that you get that type of opportunity,” he told Wallace in the same interview.
3. He won $5,000 on a lottery ticket as a 19-year-old: The future House majority leader then opened his own deli, named Kevin O’s (after his full name, Kevin Owen McCarthy).
4. He sold the deli and used it to pay for college: McCarthy graduated from California State University, Bakersfield, in 1989 with a B.S. in marketing and earned an M.B.A. in 1994.
“My father and I even built the counter in my dad’s garage, and we created a deli. And I soon learned if you’re a small-business owner, you’re the first one to work, the last to leave, the last to be paid,” he told Wallace. “You learn what regulation does to your business and the challenges. You wonder where common sense is.”
5. He sleeps on the couch in his D.C. office: “I don’t ever want to become Washington. I go home every weekend. I don’t want it to be comfortable. I don’t want to have to worry about my roof in Washington, the school district in Washington,” he explained to Wallace in 2014.
6. He helped Kevin Spacey with his “House of Cards” role: “I told him I say to members, ‘You vote your district, you vote your conscience, you just don’t surprise me.’ And he stole that line for the show,” McCarthy told People magazine in July 2014. And from Spacey’s character, Francis Underwood, McCarthy said he learned “[t]hings not to do.”
7. He would be just the second speaker of the House from California (and the first Republican): The first, of course, was Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat who in 2007 became the first female speaker in congressional history.
8. He pulled his column from Breitbart after it ran a lewd photoshopped image of Pelosi: The conservative outlet’s ad campaign launching its California site in April 2014 featured a series of digitally altered images, including one of the Democratic leader’s head on Miley Cyrus’ body, on all fours with her tongue hanging out during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
“We didn’t condone them,” a McCarthy spokesman told the Los Angeles Times, in reference to the photos. “We thought it was the right thing to do to ask for the column to be removed.”
9. He’s not much of a singer, according to his wife: “He thinks he knows every word of every song, but he sings them all wrong,” his wife Judy teased during the July 2014 People article.