SAN FRANCISCO -- Flanked by three California Republican congressional candidates, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy on Friday called November's election "a battle for the soul of this country and what we want it to look like."
The left and the right -- "the occupiers of our parks and the tea parties" -- are wrestling over the size and scope of government, said McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, in a meeting with reporters at the University Club on Powell Street.
Next to McCarthy were Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, who's challenging Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who's challenging Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara; and state Sen. Tony Strickland, who's running to succeed Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley.
"You're either a thermometer or a thermostat," McCarthy said, explaining that a thermostat is someone who not only can take the temperature of a room but also knows how to change it.
"A thermostat is a Ronald Reagan, a Winston Churchill or a Bill Clinton. ... That's what we're hungry for," he said. "When you look in California at our candidates, they're thermostats."
McCarthy and GOP House candidates earlier had attended a fundraising luncheon for the Golden State Joint Victory Fund at the nearby Ritz Carlton Hotel. The event was a joint effort of the National Republican Congressional Committee and the California Republican Party. Later Friday, they were headed for another fundraiser at the
Tickets for either cost $1,000, while co-hosts ($5,000), event hosts ($15,000) and event chairs ($30,000) got additional tickets, special access and photos.
McCarthy said the victory fund's money will pay for a dozen campaign headquarters around the state, from which the candidates can mount phone banks and precinct-walking efforts.
He said similar partnerships are afoot in New York and Illinois.
President Barack Obama is all but sure to carry those states, which also lack competitive U.S. Senate races, but they have House races that could tip the balance on Capitol Hill.
Vann said Garamendi -- rated the fourth most liberal House member by the National Journal -- must reintroduce himself to about 85 percent of the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District, while she's already well-known as a county supervisor and a leader of the Regional Council of Rural Counties.
She said Garamendi has shown he's out of sync with the district by supporting not only the Affordable Care Act, but also a government-run single-payer health care system, in addition to backing Obama's economic stimulus efforts.
McCarthy called Garamendi "probably one of the most partisan Democrats" next to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.
That's not a good fit for the new district, McCarthy said.
Vann, Maldonado and Strickland all voiced opposition to California's high-speed rail project, saying the state has more pressing priorities. And all spoke against the proposed tax increases contained in measures on California's November ballot.
But there was at least one thing on which they disagreed.
Strickland said he has signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge never to vote for a tax hike. But Vann and Maldonado said they have not and will not sign any pledges.