Redistricting has pushed Rep. Kevin McCarthy's congressional district into the eastern reaches of Tulare County, including Porterville.
But the new boundaries are unlikely to give the Bakersfield Republican much of a worry. Party registration in the new 23rd Congressional District, which extends from Tulare County to a corner of Los Angeles County, is heavily Republican, and the three-term Congressman has never faced a serious challenge for his seat.
Still, two candidates have stepped up to give it a try. They are Terry Phillips, 59, a journalist and media consultant from Bakersfield, who is registered as "no party preference"; and Eric Parker, 44, of Mojave, an auto parts store manager, who is running as a Republican, but calls himself a "freedomist."
It's unlikely that Parker or Phillips will be able to unseat McCarthy, particularly given the high percentage of Republicans in the district, said Allan Hoffenblum, who publishes the California Target Book, a nonpartisan analysis of federal and state legislative races in California.
"The only contest is going to be who gets the second spot on the ballot," Hoffenblum said. "I don't think Kevin's in any serious difficulty as far as re-election."
Under California's new open primary system, the top two vote-getters in June will face each other in November, regardless of party.
Phillips: Solving challenges
Phillips most recently hosted a news and talk program on Valley Public Radio. He's also been a correspondent for CBS News, reporting from Moscow, Sarajevo and Port-au-Prince.
Phillips said the battle between the two main parties has impeded solving more immediate challenges.
If elected, Phillips said he would focus on three areas: ensuring California controls the state's water resources without federal government domination, improving health and health care for the Central Valley and foreign policy.
On foreign policy, Phillips said, the United States needs to be engaged diplomatically as well as militarily in the world. "We need again to be the country that everyone loves and respects."
On health care, Phillips said that although President Barack Obama's health care law has some flaws, such as not allowing the government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies, the law has expanded coverage to tens of millions who previously had no access to care. "All of that would be undone as a result of ... efforts to repeal all or part of the bill."
Phillips said McCarthy's been more interested in promoting his party than working for his constituents. For example, he said, McCarthy has misled people about the health care reform law, which hasn't served constituents well.
"It's clear his priority from the beginning has been his party, and I can easily imagine him saying, 'I don't need to worry about these guys (his opponents),' " Phillips said.
Parker: preserving freedoms
Parker said his goal would be to preserve personal freedoms -- from gun control to abortion to gay marriage. He said he was moved to run for office because "I wasn't as proud of my country as I used to be. The rich were putting profits over patriotism. The poor were getting more and more depressed."
Government needs to do more to help small businesses, which he calls "the real job creators."
"I don't think the big corporations that outsource jobs are the real job creators," Parker said. "The auto parts stores and cafes here, they can't send this out to China or India."
Among his ideas are to pay unemployed people with at least a high school diploma to be part of a permanent standing jury pool, penalize companies for not hiring U.S. workers and allow public institutions like schools to carry leftover funds into the next budget year rather than forcing them to spend it.
Parker said he favors expanding Medicare to cover all adults, starting at age 18, and having all adults pay into the Medicare system. He says such a system would save money. "For-profit health insurance is fine to fill the gaps, but it shouldn't be the first line of defense."
Parker likened Obama's health care law to "a good jab, but he doesn't follow anything with the right hand."
As for going up against McCarthy, Parker said, "I think McCarthy is not as popular as his numbers show. He has not had any competition. So is he really popular or is he the only game in town? We're going to find out."
McCarthy: Republican values
McCarthy -- the powerful and well-funded incumbent -- is steeped in Republican politics, including an internship with his predecessor, Rep. Bill Thomas. And like Visalia Republican Devin Nunes, McCarthy was considered a Thomas protégé.
He won his first election in 2000 as a Kern Community College District trustee. Two years later, he was elected to the state Assembly.
In 2006, McCarthy was elected to Congress and has quickly risen in the House Republican Caucus' hierarchy. He is now the House majority whip, the third-ranking leadership position.
McCarthy's stances largely are in line with Republican Party orthodoxy.
For instance, in February he co-authored an opinion piece along with Nunes and Turlock Republican Jeff Denham that outlined their opposition to the state's proposed high-speed rail project.
In 2007 McCarthy and Nunes joined other House members in voicing support for the project.
And the same three also introduced the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act in response to repeated severe cutbacks in irrigation water deliveries south of the delta.
The legislation -- which the House passed in March -- returns federal irrigation contracts to 40 years, rather than the 25-year limit imposed in 1992. It eases water transfers and pre-empts state laws that might impose stricter environmental standards.
McCarthy's website also lists energy as a major issue.
The website says the nation needs a national energy policy "that focuses on more renewable resources, environmentally sound development of fossil fuels, and incentives for conservation."
It also says that the nation needs to be less reliant on foreign sources of energy.
This story is a revised version of one that originally published in the Bakersfield Californian, and is published here courtesy of the Californian.
Education: Bachelor's degree, master's degree, California State University, Bakersfield
Family: Married, 2 children
Party preference: Republican
Web: http://www.mccarthyforcongress.com/; Facebook: kevinomccarthy; Twitter:@kevinomccarthy; YouTube: RepKevinMcCarthy
Occupation: Broadcaster, media consultant
Education: Bachelor's degree, Santa Clara University
Party preference: No party preference
Web: www.terryphillips.org; Facebook: TerryPhillipsForCongress
Occupation: Auto parts store manager
Education: Associate's degree, Pierce College
Party preference: Republican