Five things to know about Kevin McCarthy, the new House majority leader

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Story highlights

  • Kevin McCarthy, R-California, elected by peers as the No. 2 GOP leader in the House
  • Kevin Spacey reportedly shadowed McCarthy to prep for the lead on "House of Cards"
  • McCarthy once used the $5,000 he won in a lottery to open a deli to help pay for college
  • His meteoric rise might be hindered by immigration positions

Rep. Kevin McCarthy's election to the No. 2 Republican leadership position in the House was expected by politicos, but this Californian's back story is full of plot twists.

Here are five things you might not know about him:

1. Role model: Actor Kevin Spacey reportedly shadowed McCarthy to prepare for his role as Majority Whip Frank Underwood in the Netflix series "House of Cards." Unlike the duplicitous and murderous Underwood, McCarthy is considered by colleagues to be an affable guy who often invites members to his office to discuss their woes and share takeout food. Still, there are a few similarities. McCarthy once told reporters at the Sacramento Press Club that Underwood's office knickknacks and décor look quite familiar.

2. Funding his future: McCarthy married his high school sweetheart and opened a deli with $5,000 he won in the lottery. According to the Orange County Register, an old menu shows the future politico once served up "fresh Dutch Krunch white rolls every day." He used the money to help pay his way through California State University, Bakersfield.

3. Rapid rise: His political ascent has been meteoric. His boss, former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, endorsed the young staffer to replace him in 2006. Since then, he's cruised through every re-election and used his charm, intellect and savvy, friends say, to climb through the House GOP's leadership ranks. Seven years after he first took office, he's now considered the front-runner for the majority leader's job.

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4. Workouts and flip-flops: He's a workout buff who, in his spare time, dons the West Coast casual look. At Wednesday's annual softball game between women members of Congress and the media, McCarthy was spotted wearing linen slacks and flip-flops. He reportedly enjoys riding his bike along Rock Creek Park's trails in Washington or working up a sweat to P90X, much like Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

5. Immigration views could be problematic: Like Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, the outgoing House majority leader, McCarthy has a nuanced position on immigration that could lead to some showdowns with both conservatives and pro-immigration reform advocates. Businesses in his district depend heavily on immigrant labor to work the fertile farmland. His district is also 35% Hispanic, and pro-immigration organizations have vowed to ramp up the pressure on McCarthy to address reform.

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