Column: Kevin McCarthy wants vengeance. Now he’s free to pursue it

Kevin McCarthy is having a grand old time.

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(Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call Inc via Getty Images)

He’s traveling the country giving six-figure speeches, playing pundit and elder statesman on TV, holding forth at high-brow political forums and, not least, plotting vengeance against those behind his unceremonious ouster as House speaker.

Eight Republican lawmakers joined 208 Democrats in toppling the former Bakersfield congressman, the first time in history a House leader has been voted out. Rather than hang on, McCarthy left office at the end of 2023.

Two of the eight Republicans are joining him in retirement. Three others — Bob Good of Virginia, Eli Crane of Arizona and Nancy Mace of South Carolina — face strong primary challenges. McCarthy has been working behind the scenes to end their congressional careers, strategizing and directing money and other resources to their opponents.

“He wants to hold to account those who pushed him out,” said a Central Valley political operative, who has a decades-long relationship with McCarthy.

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Like most, the operative asked not to be quoted by name, to preserve his relationship with the ex-speaker. McCarthy declined to be interviewed, perhaps because of the ways — fecklessmorally bankrupt — your friendly columnist has described him.

McCarthy’s chief nemesis, according to several who have spoken with him, is Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was the main instigator of McCarthy’s downfall. The pugnacious Florida Republican faces little danger of losing his House seat but may run for governor in 2026.

During an appearance this month at Georgetown University, McCarthy dropped a depth charge on Gaetz, insisting the only reason he lost the speakership is that “one person wanted me to stop an ethics complaint because he slept with a 17-year-old.”

“Did he do it?” McCarthy added, after asserting for all the world he had. “I don’t know.”

The reference was to allegations that Gaetz paid for sex, including relations with an underage girl, while in Congress. The Justice Department investigated the Florida lawmaker and decided not to bring charges. The House Ethics Committee is continuing its probe.

“McCarthy is a liar,” Gaetz shot back on social media. “That’s why he is no longer speaker.”

McCarthy is a political animal down to his marrow and the speakership is a job he coveted much of his career. His tenure — less than nine months — lasted barely long enough to pose for the portrait that will someday hang in the Capitol.

But now, said one political associate, McCarthy feels free. He’s no longer responsible for shepherding a colicky, eyelash-thin Republican majority — over to you, Mike Johnson! — and can fully devote himself to what has long been McCarthy’s forte: campaigns and elections.

He remains close to the many lawmakers he recruited and helped get in office and keeps in touch with a nationwide donor network built during years as one of the GOP’s top congressional strategists.

Keeping Republican control of the House is, of course, a top priority for McCarthy this November. So is reelecting members like Orange County’s Young Kim and Michelle Steel and Oregon’s Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who helped diversify the white-as-snow ranks of the House GOP.

Click here to read the ful article in the LA Times

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