House Republicans have made the first change in their leadership since Majority Leader Eric Cantor unexpectedly lost a primary election last week.

They've elected California Rep. Kevin McCarthy to replace him in the No. 2 job.

The 49-year-old McCarthy has been GOP whip, the No. 3 post, and his election Thursday was anticipated.

He defeated Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, a conservative who has often battled his own party leaders and said voters want change in Washington.

McCarthy came to Congress in 2007 and has climbed rapidly through his party's leadership ranks. He's a close Cantor ally.

House Republicans will also choose a new whip to replace McCarthy. That's a hard-to-predict contest between Reps.

Peter Roskam of Illinois, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana.

The new Majority Leader cut his political teeth in the minority, while serving here in Sacramento.

McCarthy was elected to the state Assembly in 2002 and later served as Republican leader.

He was known as someone who had intimate knowledge of his members and put them first.

"There was times when he stood up to the governor -- the governor of his own party," GOP consultant Rob Stutzman said. 

Stutzman worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger back then and says McCarthy still demonstrates a personal focus, he helped groom House Republicans elected in 2010.

Some on the right are wary of him for favoring a path to legal status for immigrants, but you have to think about where he's from: Bakersfield.

"Once you're over the Tehachapis in the Central Valley, you're in an ag community," Stutzman said.  


His district is a conservative one, though, and McCarthy is an outspoken critic of high-speed rail.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.