How Paul Ryan’s retirement will affect California politics

  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (left) of California is the next Republican in line after Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Photo: Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to retire from Congress didn’t just send shock waves through Washington and his home state of Wisconsin. It’s likely to change the political dynamic in California as well.

One likely successor to Ryan as head of the House’s GOP contingent is a Californian — he could become speaker if Republicans keep their House majority in the November elections. But Ryan’s departure also makes the Republicans’ election challenge more difficult, and if they return to minority status, San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi is in position to retake the speakership she lost in 2010.

Here are some of the ways Ryan’s retirement will affect the state:

‘My Kevin’: “It could open the door for the next speaker to be a person from California named Kevin McCarthy,” said state Republican Party chairman Jim Brulte.

That would be the current No. 2 House Republican, a six-term congressman from Bakersfield who abruptly backed out of a run for speaker in 2015.

McCarthy seemed to have the inside track on the job then, including backing from Silicon Valley. But he killed his chances by saying GOP-led congressional investigations into the deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 were designed to cripple Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. Also, conservative talk radio turned the House Freedom Caucus against him, labeling him too much of an establishment politician.

McCarthy said then that he was “not the one” and that it was time for a “fresh face” in the House’s top job. But that seems so three years ago. Now, McCarthy is tight with President Trump, who has taken hold of the GOP and calls him “My Kevin.”

“If he’s not the closest to the president in the House, then definitely the closest in leadership,” Brulte said.

That relationship could reap dividends. Should Republicans retain control of the House — a big if — and McCarthy wins the job, “it could mean more money for California. Kevin McCarthy has forgotten more about California than the previous speaker knows,” Brulte said.

Either way, chances are good the next speaker will be a Californian. If Democrats retake the House, Pelosi figures to become speaker again.

Silicon Valley CEOs would be happy either way.

“If one is the speaker and the other is party leader, that’s heads we win, tails we win,” said Carl Guardino, president and CEO of…

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