On Thursday, April 12th, the Rose Institute and the Kravis Leadership Institute jointly sponsored an Athenaeum talk and meeting with Rose and KLI students with Congressman and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy spoke about his experiences in college, his early career and small business ventures, and his ascension to the California State Assembly, where he was the first freshman Republican legislator in state history elected to assume the top Republican post in the California State Assembly.
After spending several years focusing on California’s budget, state worker compensation, and business climate issues, Kevin McCarthy, State Assemblyman, became Kevin McCarthy, Congressman, winning the 2006 election to represent California’s 22nd district. McCarthy’s Republican colleagues have since elected him as Republican Whip; an extraordinary accomplishment for any Congressperson, especially considering that, according to the New York Times, Congressman McCarthy is “approximately as menacing as a summer camp counselor.” As you may expect from that description, McCarthy’s Whip leadership style differs markedly from the last Republican Majority Whip, Tom DeLay, whose nickname was “The Hammer.”
McCarthy discussed how he leads by rewarding good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior. He attributes his remarkable ascension in both the California State Assembly and in the House of Representatives primarily to timing, though he did several things to take advantage of his opportunity: he played a large role in recruiting members to run for Congress in 2008 and 2010; the loyalty of those he recruited and the relationships he developed as a result have supported him in being elected as Whip and in passing Republican legislation.
McCarthy also discussed very practical tactics, including how he always has food in his office to encourage Representatives to stop by, which makes it easy for him to discuss bills with them and to keep his finger on the pulse of the delegation. McCarthy noted that he displays pictures of Representatives who vote the party line in his office, which they really enjoy, and make a point of showing their constituents on tours of the office building. McCarthy also gave assessments of the Democratic and Republican Senate and House leadership teams, and why he thinks that the Republican leadership team runs efficiently.
Overall, McCarthy’s talks were an informative and frank look into a Republican superstar’s ascension, and helped deconstruct how he came to be where he is today. Thank you again to Congressman McCarthy for honoring us with a visit, and for the hard work of his administrative and security staff to ensure the visit ran smoothly.