House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy traded barbs with Democratic challenger Marisa Wood on Wednesday in their one and only debate Wednesday.
McCarthy is running against Wood, a junior high school teacher, for the 20th Congressional District seat. McCarthy has been a member of Congress since 2007, while Wood is running on a ticket emphasizing her lack of time in politics.
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The pair got personal with their criticisms on Wednesday night when McCarthy said he has “never faced somebody this liberal before in this campaign.”
“What we really need is somebody that has a voice that can represent the entire Central Valley,” he said.
“I’m sorry, but were you referring to me when you said you’ve never had a lib–?” Wood responded. “Was that a reference to me?”
“Yes, ma’am,” McCarthy replied.
The debate highlighted the contrast of their platforms on immigration.
Wood was asked for reaction to McCarthy’s GOP plan for curbing illegal immigration. While Wood said she agreed with the Republican Party’s concern for border security, she drew a line at building a wall on the border.
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Wood said, “No, I am not for building the wall. I don’t believe that’s the only way that we can secure the border. I believe we need to put the resources there to ensure that the border is secure and that criminals do not come in.”
The educator pivoted and pointed to the issue as evidence of McCarthy not understanding the California workforce.
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“But here’s what I see. This is what Kevin doesn’t see atop his political machine there in Washington or from Mar-a-Lago. He doesn’t see the immigrants that I see — my students, my families that are working again, two and three jobs,” Wood said.
She continued, “They’re coming here to work. You cannot live in the Central Valley and not know and understand the importance of immigrant labor that’s here.”
When asked for response, McCarthy similarly accused Wood of being out of touch with the area’s core issues, citing an incident of drug abuse in a California school district.
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“I don’t think she understands the border. She’s not going to secure it. She’s just people have come in asylum,” McCarthy said. “You had more than 3 million people just in the last year. You’ve got fentanyl, now the number one killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.”
He added, “You’re a junior high school teacher in a junior high in Bakersfield. A student just brought 150 pills.”
McCarthy also hammered the issue of inflation, mentioning it nearly a dozen times.
He will likely succeed Democrat Nancy Pelosi as House speaker if Republicans, as pundits expect, win back the chamber’s majority.
McCarthy has for months treated his promotion to House speaker as a given, telling Fox News in August, “We’ll win the majority and I’ll be speaker. Yes.”