McCarthy served for four years in the California Assembly, including two years as minority leader, before he was elected to Congress from a district that includes his hometown of Bakersfield and most of the Antelope Valley. McCarthy will be the first Californian and youngest person ever to serve in the position when he formally assumes the role in July.
McCarthy played a key role in recruiting a class of candidates in 2010 that helped Republicans win back control of the House, and has raised millions to help keep the party in power.
Cantor is stepping down as majority leader July 31 after his surprise loss to a Tea Party movement challenger in a Virginia primary election last week.
McCarthy is seen as holding similar political views as Cantor but has a different leadership style. He has a reputation for being friendly, though some members thought as party whip he did not twist enough arms to garner votes on controversial bills.
"Kevin seems to fly by the seat of his pants a little bit," Representative Richard Hudson of North Carolina said on Wednesday. "McCarthy's more affable. He takes his coat off for every meeting, he rolls up his sleeves, and he's not worried about being formal and having to look polished."
Meanwhile, John Boehner has said he intends to run for a third term as speaker if, as expected, Republicans hold the majority after November's midterm election. McCarthy's selection Wednesday makes him the heir apparent if Boehner gives up the post after 2015.
After McCarthy's victory, Steve Scalise of Louisiana was elected to replace McCarthy as the caucus' next whip, the No. 3 spot in the party's House leadership, a Republican aide said. Scalise defeated two other candidates, Representatives Peter Roskam of Illinois and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, to clinch the victory.
Reuters and Michael Memoli, Tribune Washington BureauCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun