Kyle Kirkland, California Cardroom Owner, Challenges For Congress Seat

Posted on: January 2, 2024, 07:12h. 

Last updated on: January 3, 2024, 12:48h.

California businessman Kyle Kirkland is running for Congress to succeed U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California). McCarthy officially departed Congress effective December 31 after he was shockingly removed as House Speaker last October.

Kyle Kirkland California cardroom casino
Kyle Kirkland poses for a photograph at his Club One Casino in Fresno in 2020. Kirkland is running for Congress by way of California to succeed former U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s seat. (Image: The Business Journal)

Kirkland owns Club One Casino in Fresno, a cardroom that primarily runs poker games. The Central California gaming facility features 51 table games, a 24-hour restaurant, and three bars.

A Republican, Kirkland is among what’s becoming a crowded field for McCarthy’s 20th Congressional District seat. One of the reddest parts of the state, the current field includes McCarthy’s hand-picked successor, state Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield).

Fong wants to run for both state reelection and Congress. A state Superior Court judge last month said Fong can conduct dual campaigns, though California Secretary of State Shirley Weber says she’ll appeal the decision through the state Courts of Appeal.

Kirkland says he watched the Fong controversy play out and decided to throw his hat into the pool.

Political Newcomer

Before buying Club One Casino in February 2008, Kirkland enjoyed a lengthy career in the music industry. He served as chairman of Steinway Musical Instruments for 18 years, the longest tenure for someone not named Steinway.

Asked why he decided to enter politics despite a successful business career in music and gaming, Kirkland said he’s long had an interest in government and lawmaking.

I felt like this was an opportunity for a noncareer politician to get involved,” Kirkland told Ray Appleton on his KMJ Now News Talk Radio podcast. “I certainly see the issues people are facing and concerned about — the economy, border crisis, unanswered crime. If there was ever a time where Congress needed new thinking and someone who is action-oriented and looking for change, it’s now.”

Kirkland says he’s on the ballot for the 2024 primary on March 5.

Kirkland told Appleton that the economy and high costs of living are his top two priorities. He believes his business experience makes him more qualified to handle such complex topics than career politicians who have never been responsible for peoples’ jobs and livelihoods.

Club One Casino, he says, is a large taxpayer that “employs a lot of people.” The California Gaming Association, of which Kirkland is president, says the Golden State’s cardroom industry generates more than 32K jobs a year and almost $5.6 billion a year in economic activity.

McCarthy Downfall

McCarthy officially exited Washington, D.C., on December 31, following 17 years in Congress.

After some in his party agreed to oust him as Speaker last fall for agreeing to work with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, McCarthy said he would depart the Capitol. McCarthy plans to help GOP political newcomers seek and win office.

“I have decided to depart the House … to serve America in new ways,” McCarthy wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “I will continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office. The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders.”