By Cailin Garcia and Julian Verdon
CALIFORNIA — Four weeks after the election, CA Representative Mike Garcia retained his Congressional seat after beating Democratic challenger Christy Smith by a slim margin in California’s 25th District — just over 300 votes.
Garcia’s extremely narrow win is telling of the district’s recent political transformation. California’s 25th district covers most of northern Los Angeles County, including the cities of Santa Clarita, Palmdale, Lancaster and Simi Valley. The area was considered a solidly red district for many years, with republican Congressman Buck McKeon holding the seat for 11 terms before Congressman Steve Knight took over for another two terms.
In 2018, Democratic candidate Katie Hill flipped the seat blue for the first time in more than twenty years. Hill’s campaign was a major player of the 2018 “blue wave” in the House of Representatives and Democrats hoped that her win would secure a permanent leftward shift in the district.
However, Hill resigned in 2019 after RedState, a conservative blog, and the Daily Mail leaked nude photos of Hill and alleged that the congresswoman had engaged in inappropriate relationships with two of her campaign staffers. The House Ethics Committee investigated Hill for the relationship accusations before she announced her resignation via Twitter.
“It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community, and our country,” Hill wrote in her resignation letter, posted to her Twitter account on Oct. 27, 2019.
After Hill’s resignation, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that a special election would take place to fill the vacancy. Garcia initially placed second in a nonpartisan primary behind Smith and in front of the former incumbent Steve Knight.
Garcia and Smith are both well-known residents of Santa Clarita, one of the most prominent cities in the district. Garcia was born and raised in Santa Clarita, working as a former fighter pilot and executive at defense contractor Raytheon. Smith has lived in Santa Clarita since 1979, where she attended high school and began her college studies.
Before running for Congress, Smith won the election for CA-28 assembly against republican incumbent Dante Acosta. As an assemblywoman, Smith focused on securing funds for local colleges, childcare and health care clinics and senior centers. Her congressional campaign also focused heavily on education, with “improving public education” being at the top of her list of priorities on her campaign website.
Garcia is a proud Trump supporter and his campaign echoed many of the Trump administration’s policies, such as promises to “build a border wall” and bring a “defeat to socialism.” He’s also lambasted the California state government, using Smith’s past as a politician in Sacramento to portray her as part of the “problem” of liberal California legislation.
“Christy Smith is a career politician who raised taxes, hurt small businesses, and is backed by Nancy Pelosi and her liberal allies who won’t stand up to the radical socialist agenda fervently pushed by those in her own party that will destroy America,” Mike Garcia wrote in an email to supporters.
Smith lost to Garcia in the special election but vowed to run again in last month’s general election. Their race garnered national attention as a key seat for securing a House majority for either party.
Both campaigns received endorsements from prominent figures within their parties. Smith was endorsed by President Elect Joe Biden, President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among dozens of other democratic senators and congressmen. Garcia was endorsed by President Donald Trump, Senator Tom Cotton, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Many elections after Nov. 3 had no clear winner for a few days, but California’s 25th District was too close to call for more than four weeks. This comes amid many unsubstantiated claims of election tampering, particularly from Trump’s legal team.
After several weeks of a near 50-50 split in votes, Garcia won the seat by about a 300-vote margin, marking Smith and Garcia’s contest as the closest House race in the state this year.
When the election’s results were finalized, Smith did not contest the results and conceded.
“With final votes counted in this race, it’s clear we will not be able to close the 339-vote gap. This is not the end result we fought for, but I am proud of the strong, grassroots campaign we ran,” said Smith in her concession statement on Twitter.
“I want to thank everyone who worked so hard on this campaign, especially when these unprecedented times prevented us from traditional campaign rallies and knocking on doors. Nevertheless, as we launched our virtual phone banks, hundreds of filled Zoom screens eager to deliver our message of justice, equity, and progress,” Smith stated.
Garcia had also released a statement about his victory, expressing how honored he was to be serving the people of California’s 25th District. “I remain committed to protecting the Constitution, fighting for the longevity of our nation and ensuring we invest in our public’s safety and our collective national security,” he said.
When Garcia spoke to Fox and Friends after his reelection, he stated he ran because, “I don’t want my country to become what California has become.”
After the results of this election, the Democrats will have at least 222 seats in the house and the Republicans 211.
“The people of #CA25 deserve a representative who will not rest until true economic relief – especially for schools, hospitals, & small businesses – is passed & sustained. This outcome hurts, but I’m grateful to [Christy Smith] & her whole team for a hard fought campaign,” tweeted former congresswoman Hill in response to Smith’s concession.
“I wish [Mike Garcia] the best & pray that he puts the residents of #CA25 first. But make no mistake: redistricting happens in 2022 and we are not giving up on the district that is & always has been my home,” Hill added.
The future of California’s 25th district remains unclear. Garcia’s win secured the seat for the Republicans for the next two years, but with such a slim margin of votes ensuring his victory, it’s likely that CA25 will remain a competitive swing district in upcoming elections.
Cailin Garcia is a fourth year student at UCLA, majoring in sociology with a minor in professional writing. She is from Santa Clarita, CA.
Julian Verdon is a senior at UCLA majoring in English. He is from Los Angeles California.