Special election on Tuesday, May 12, pits Republican former Navy fighter pilot against Democrat Assemblywoman
On Tuesday, May 12, a special election will be held to fill the House seat vacated by disgraced former congresswoman Katie Hill. Hill, you may recall, resigned after being accused of “inappropriate sexual relationships” with staffers.
The House seat up for grabs is in California district 25 and had long been held by a Republican, and now Democrats are reportedly quite concerned that a Republican is about to win it back.
In a Politico article entitled, “Democrats are on verge of the unthinkable: Losing a swing district in California,” they note that Democrats are downplaying the significance of the election and are already saying they will try again in November.
California Republicans may be on the verge of something they haven’t done in more than two decades: capturing a congressional seat from Democrats in the nation’s most populous state.
Tuesday’s special election runoff in the Los Angeles suburbs, which is taking place because of former Rep. Katie Hill’s resignation last year, has Democrats bracing for defeat in a district they flipped by 9 points in the 2018 midterms. Armed with a highly touted recruit and an older, less diverse electorate than in general elections, Republicans feel they are on the verge of an upset.
Private polls show the race in the state’s 25th District is within just a few points, and Democrats are already downplaying expectations for their nominee, state Assemblywoman Christy Smith, citing depressed turnout in the midst of a pandemic and the negative impact of the scandal surrounding Hill, who resigned amid allegations that she had inappropriate sexual relationships with staffers.
Their battle plan: Hope for the best next week, then try again in six months in the rematch, when Democrats expect their voters willshow up with the presidential election on the ballot.
“We don’t underestimate how much of a Republican-leaning district this could be in May, but that will be a different electorate in November,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said, noting that the winner will serve only a limited time in Congress. “We don’t get in this to lose a race, but I do think that in November, Christy will be successful.”
President Trump has thrown his support behind the Republican in the race, former Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia.
I am running to serve again; to protect what I fought for as a Navy fighter pilot. With CA's problems of high taxes and homelessness threatening to spread across the nation, we need a fighter in Congress, not a career politician.
I am ready to answer the CALL once again. pic.twitter.com/MawIqfri0j
— Mike Garcia (@ElectMikeGarcia) March 30, 2020
Less than a week before a special election in a fiercely competitive battleground district in California, which has emerged as a proxy tug-of-war testing President’s Trump electoral strength in the middle a pandemic, the Democrat seeking to keep control of the seat issued a stark plea: “I need your help to win in CA-25.”
“Republicans haven’t picked up a House seat in California in over 20 years – and I am not about to let this one be the first,” California Assemblywoman Christy Smith wrote in the email, which was sent to the national Democratic party’s supporter list – underscoring the national influence seeping into California’s 25th congressional district.
. . . . Last month, the race shifted from “lean Democratic” to a “toss up” by Cook Political Report.
Garcia, who earned the endorsement of Trump in April, is seeking to put the seat back in GOP control, after former Congresswoman Katie Hill flipped the top target in 2018, unseating former GOP Congressman Steve Knight by nine points two years after Hillary Clinton won the district in the 2016 presidential election.
. . . . Garcia has leaned into his background with the Navy, blanketing ads and digital videos with images of fighter planes and photos of him during his time in the Navy.
“After more than a year of running, the differences between my opponent and me are obvious – I am a former Navy fighter pilot and small businessman who wants to lower taxes for Californians, while my opponent is a liberal Assemblywoman who wants to raise taxes in Washington because that’s exactly what she’s done in Sacramento,” Garcia said in a statement to ABC News.
Both national parties see the import of this election and are spending money in the district.
ABC News continues:
. . . . The race has not only become nationalized but has seen its final weeks unfold in the midst of the novel coronavirus. Democrats say they are doing “everything” when it comes to organizing, with the exception “of getting within six feet of people” – even pouring $3 million into the race.
Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the campaign arm for the House GOP, has waded into the race, spending weeks hammering Smith and running ads that cast her as “bad for workers” and take aim at the state lawmaker over taxes.
The Wuhan coronavirus is figuring heavily in the campaigns for both candidates.
It’s hard to overstate how profoundly things have changed since California’s March primary. Garcia’s and Smith’s campaigns are suddenly playing out on Zoom instead of neighbors’ doorsteps. Instead of an in-person debate, they took part in an online candidate forum.
The candidates have had to shift policy gears as well. Issues like health care and the economy have taken on new importance.
On paper, Smith should be the odds-on favorite to keep the seat in Democratic hands.
In recent years, the district’s demographics have shifted to favor Democrats as the area’s population grows younger and more diverse. Clinton won the district by 7 percentage points in 2016, while first-time candidate Hill defeated Knight by nearly double digits.
But Republican voters tend to show up more consistently in nonpresidential elections, said California State University, Northridge political scientist Larry Becker, who added that nothing about a special election during a global pandemic is normal.
“We have no idea what turnout is going to be,” Becker said.
As a safety measure, Los Angeles and Ventura counties mailed all registered voters an absentee ballot so that they won’t have to vote in person.
This “safety measure” of mail-in ballots is another key factor in this race.
The race is also being watched because of its heavy reliance on mail-in voting. In March, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed an executive order requiring county elections officials to mail a ballot to every registered voter in the California House district. Some in-person voting will also be allowed, as state law requires.
President Trump became more involved in the race with a series of tweets over the weekend alleging that it was rigged after county officials on Friday said they were adding a new in-person polling station in a part of the district with more minority voters.
“They are trying to steal another election. It’s all rigged out there. These votes must not count. SCAM!” Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday.
The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk announced Friday it would open an in-person voting center in Lancaster at the request of the city’s Republican mayor. On Monday, the head of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party had complained that the registrar’s office had failed to provide voting centers in areas that are predominantly black or Latino and called for an additional voting center in Lancaster.
Mr. Garcia said on Twitter Friday night that Democrats had waited until the last minute to call for a new polling center.
Watch an interview with Garcia in which he discusses taxes, gun control, abortion, and other issues important to voters:
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