By James Burger-The Bakersfield Californian
A military wife and public relations professional from Rosamond is the latest name to appear as a candidate in the 2018 race for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s 23rd Congressional District.
Tatiana Matta, a Democrat, has thrown her name into the ring alongside that of McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and fellow Democrat Wendy Reed of Lancaster.
Matta owns Tatiana Matta Strategies and offers services to nonprofits and political candidates.
She is a native of Puerto Rico who moved from that U.S. territory to Delaware when she was young in order to learn English.
Matta is married to Capt. Eugenio Matta, a bio-environmental engineer at Edwards Air Force Base, where the pair live with son Kevin.
Matta said the family has lived in east Kern for two years and has been embraced by the community. They’ve decided to make it their home long-term.
Now, she said, she wants to give back.
She said she has worked on political campaigns before, most notably as the co-chair of the veterans and military families committee for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s presidential run last year.
But can she defeat Kevin McCarthy?
“Yes, we can. I’ve got the numbers,” she said.
Matta acknowledges it won’t be easy.
“It definitely takes a group of people who are determined to make our community better. It’s listening to the people and letting them know they have someone who will support them,” she said.
Fundraising is a very important part of the campaign, she said, and McCarthy will have millions of dollars to throw into his effort.
The key to challenging him, Matta said, is bringing disaffected voters back into politicial activity.
“There’s a big Latino population that needs to be heard,” she said. “People are not inspired to go out and vote. I think that’s where we can make a change. We’re hoping to inspire people to join the conversation.”
The district, which includes most of Bakersfield, eastern Kern County and sections of Tulare and Los Angeles counties, is overwhelmingly Republican, with 43 percent of voters registered to McCarthy’s party.
Democrats hold a 29.5 percent registration share, according to the most recent figures from the California Secretary of State’s office.
Reed pulled in 30.8 percent of the vote against McCarthy in 2016, a respectable total for a poorly funded Democrat facing the second-most powerful man in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Reed has said she believes she can win this time around and blames “a dysfunctional Democratic Party” for dragging her down in 2016.
But any Democrat who prevails in the primary election and wins a chance to face McCarthy in November 2018 would need to do much better than Reed did last year in the presidential-year election.
McCarthy earned 92,648 more votes than Reed.
That’s 18,180 more votes than the total number of votes Reed received.
To beat McCarthy, assuming the same number of people vote in 2018, a challenger would need to steal at least 46,325 votes from McCarthy’s column.
Currently McCarthy has $3.4 million on hand to pay for his congressional race, according to the Federal Election Commission’s most recent numbers.
Reed has $538.12 in cash and a debt of $2,500.
Matta has not yet filed a financial report.
This race has already been a wild ride for McCarthy’s challengers.
Attorney Robert Owen of Bakersfield dropped out of the race in August, citing the campaign’s drain on his family.
And last month Republican candidate Joe Aleman, who was registered as a Democrat when he announced his candidacy, was arrested for allegedly molesting a friend’s 11-year-old daughter while others were distracted by a televised boxing match.
James Burger can be reached at 661‑395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @KernQuirks