Kevin Kiley defeats Kermit Jones in California’s Rural District

Republican state legislator Kevin Kiley is running for Congress after defeating Democrat Kermit Jones in the race for an open seat that spanned a vast expanse of rural California.

The Associated Press called the race Tuesday, though official results are a long time coming.

Kiley got a shout-out last week in former President Trump’s speech as he launched his 2024 presidential bid. Trump, who hailed how the GOP captured the House majority, said Kiley overdid his party. At the time, the AP had not declared the race, but another site that analyzes election results, Decision Desk, had projected Kiley’s victory. The Associated Press and other outlets on Wednesday called GOP control of the House, with another California Republican, Rep. Santa Clarita’s Mike Garcia, as the decisive win.

“A wonderful person,” Trump said of Kiley, whom he had endorsed in the primary. “I’m very glad it was his voice that did it.”

Kiley’s victory puts Republicans two over the 218 seats needed to control the House. Only one congressional race in California remains too close to call — for an open Central Valley seat representing Los Banos and Merced.

Kiley, 37, was first elected to the California Assembly in 2016 and built his profile as an outspoken opponent of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions imposed by Governor Gavin Newsom. He participated in the failed 2021 attempt to recall the governor, but gained little traction.

He campaigned to control Democrats in Washington and hammered the party in power at inflation. Kiley was widely believed to have the upper hand in California’s 3rd district, where Republicans have a 5 percentage point registration advantage and voters narrowly supported Trump in 2020 over Joe Biden.

Jones, 46, a doctor who served as a naval surgeon in Iraq, campaigned as a Democratic moderate. He characterized Kiley’s anti-abortion stance as too extreme and accused him of associating with far-right elements of the GOP, which Kiley has denied.

The district extends nearly 430 miles along California’s eastern border, from the southern Cascade Range to the Mojave Desert. The area is mostly rural, but includes parts of the Sacramento suburbs where Kiley and Jones live.

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