After winning in court, McCarthy’s protege is eligible to run for Congress.

California Assemblymember Vince Fong’s bid for Congress remains viable following a court ruling on Thursday allowing him to proceed as a candidate for the seat vacated by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Fong, a former district director under McCarthy, and endorsed by his ex-boss, stands out as a leading candidate. The decision by Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang concludes a tumultuous beginning in the race to succeed the retiring former House speaker.

The ruling dismisses the contention by California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, whose office argued that Fong’s candidacy violated state election code. Chang stated that such statutes “are inapplicable to Fong and cannot be used as a reason to preclude him” from the primary ballot.

Following the ruling, Fong released a statement expressing his gratitude. “Today’s ruling is a victory for the voters of the 20th Congressional District, who will now have the opportunity to select the candidate of their choice in the March 5th election,” he said. “I am grateful that Judge Chang upheld the integrity of our elections and sided with Central Valley voters against an overreaching Sacramento politician.”

The legal dispute centered on whether Fong could remain on the ballot as a congressional candidate after filing for reelection to his Assembly seat. Fong had initially opted not to vie for McCarthy’s seat but changed his decision when state Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) declined to run. By the time Fong decided to run for Congress, the deadline to withdraw from the Assembly race had passed. Weber contended that this violated state law prohibiting appearance on the same ballot for different positions. Fong sued to remain on the ballot after Weber excluded him from the list of certified candidates for the 20th congressional district.

While Chang’s ruling favored Fong, it expressed concern about potential voter confusion and disenfranchisement if Fong were elected to both offices but did not retain one. The judge acknowledged that it somewhat defied common sense for a candidate to run for two offices during the same election.

Chang issued her decision just minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline for the Secretary of State to finalize the list of certified candidates for the district.

Despite the uncertainty over Fong’s eligibility, other candidates, including Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, wealthy Fresno casino-owner and philanthropist Kyle Kirkland, and far-right challenger David Giglio, have entered the race for the solidly Republican district.