Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jul. 29, 2014 – 9:27 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 30, 2014 – 12:06 am

Kevin McCarthy may be a one-man refutation of the old adage that “nice guys always finish last.”

McCarthy is a genuinely nice guy who won a seat in Congress just eight years ago after a brief stint in the California Legislature, but is poised this week to become House majority leader and could, if Republicans continue their hold, become speaker in a few years.

That is, in congressional terms, a meteoric rise and it happened because McCarthy is a nice guy.

He cultivated personal relationships with other politicians, helped them raise money and win elections and was well-positioned to move up when Majority Leader Eric Cantor unexpectedly lost a primary to a tea party challenger.

After Cantor’s loss, there was much media speculation that a tea party-backed candidate would replace him as majority leader, but within a few days, McCarthy, calling on those relationships he had carefully nurtured, claimed the position without serious opposition.

A congressman whom McCarthy had helped win his Louisiana seat, Steve Scalise, will take McCarthy’s old post of majority whip.

So who is Kevin McCarthy and what does his elevation mean for California?

McCarthy grew up in a blue-collar Democratic family in Bakersfield and at 21, used a $5,000 lottery win to open a delicatessen.

He sold the deli to finance his college education, turned an internship with Bakersfield Congressman Bill Thomas into a staff job, won a seat in 2000 on the local community college board and then two terms in the Assembly (where he became minority leader) before replacing Thomas in Congress in 2006.

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