AP Decision Notes: What to expect in the California 20th District special election

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters in California’s 20th Congressional District can be forgiven if they open their ballots for Tuesday's election with a sense of déjà vu.

Since Republican former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced in December he would step down from his Central Valley seat, voters have already had two opportunities to vote for candidates to complete his term and serve the next full one.

Most recently, voters sent Republicans Vince Fong and Mike Boudreaux to the special runoff election on Tuesday. The winner will be seated through the end of the year.

Fong and Boudreaux will face off again in November for the next full term, as they also advanced out of the regularly scheduled state primary in early March. Fong was the top vote-getter in both contests. In California, all candidates run on the same primary ballot, regardless of party, and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election.

The seat has been in Republican hands since 2003 and is one of California’s few reliably red districts.

Both candidates have picked up endorsements. Fong, a state assemblyman, has been endorsed by McCarthy and former President Donald Trump. Fong previously worked as McCarthy's district director.

Boudreaux, a local county sheriff, is endorsed by county leaders and several Republican groups in the district. He has focused on his law enforcement credentials, casting himself as a law-and-order conservative. Fong has drawn on his record in the state’s lower chamber.

Republicans hold a narrow majority in the U.S. House, 217-213, with five vacancies. There are three more special elections scheduled before the end of the year.

Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:


The special election in California’s 20th Congressional District will be held Tuesday. Polls close at 11 p.m. EDT.


The Associated Press will provide coverage for one contest in California on Tuesday: the special election in the 20th Congressional District. The candidates on the ballot are Fong and Boudreaux.


Any voter registered in California’s 20th Congressional District may participate in this special election.


Approximately 121,000 votes were cast in the March 19 special primary election. Fong finished first, winning 42% of the vote to Boudreaux’s 26%. That closely mirrored the previous primary, in which Fong received 42% of the overall vote to Boudreaux’s 24%.

The district includes portions of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the basins in the state’s agriculture-heavy Central Valley. About half the votes in both March elections came from Kern County. Kern is split among three congressional districts, but the largest portion falls in the 20th District.

In the March 19 special election, Fong won Kern and Fresno Counties — the two biggest in the district — by solid margins, giving him more than enough votes to offset Boudreaux’s leads in the smaller Kings and Tulare counties.

That special election was a low-turnout affair. The 121,000 votes cast represented a decrease of almost 20% from the regular primary, which saw nearly 158,000 votes cast. A close contest could delay a race call because California routinely takes weeks to finish counting votes.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.


As of Feb. 20, there were 449,886 voters registered in the 20th District. Of those, approximately 121,000 were Democrats (27%) and 210,000 were Republicans (47%).

Ballots were mailed out on April 22, and ballot drop boxes opened the following day.


In the special primary election on March 19, the AP first reported results in the district at 11:10 p.m. ET, or about 10 minutes after polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 3:03 a.m. ET with about 87% of total votes counted.


As of Tuesday, there will be 168 days until the November general election.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.