With mid-terms heating up and the primary election on Tuesday, the California Globe gives a look at what is projected to be one of the closest Congressional races not only in California in 2022, but the entire country: California’s 27th Congressional District.
The newly redrawn 27th district, which takes over much what is currently the 25th District in Northern Los Angeles County and Eastern Ventura County, has three major candidates vying to get on the ballot for November. There is Congressman Mike Garcia (R-CA), a former U.S. Navy Pilot who flew in Iraq, and Raytheon manager who became a Congressman in 2020 following a special election in the district. There’s also Christy Smith, a former U.S. Department of Education policy analyst and Newhall School District board member Christy Smith who had one term as a state Assemblywoman as a Democrat from 2018 to 2020 who lost to Garcia twice in the Congressional race in 2020. And finally there is John Quay Quartey, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer turned investor whose presence in the race has been bolstered by endorsements from many members of Congress, including Katie Porter (D-CA)
But to fully understand just how close this race will be, we need to go back a few years. The 25th District (soon to be 27th District) has been bitterly fought over by the Democrats and the GOP since 2018. In the 2018 election, Democrat Katie Hill defeated Republican Congressman Steve Knight, flipping the seat to the Democrats as part of the blue wave in Southern California that year. However, Hill quickly embroiled herself in numerous controversial acts, including inappropriate relationships with staffers in her office, and a “thropple,” resulting in a huge scandal. A House ethics investigation was launched against her, and Hill resigned in October 2019.
This kicked off a special election in May of 2020 and resulted in a rough and tumble primary, which led to then-Assemblywoman Smith and Garcia defeating former Congressman Knight, political commentator Cenk Uygur, and numerous other candidates. The May election, largely thought to be close, turned out to be a near landslide for the Republicans and Garcia. Despite the blue wave happening less than two years before and the popularity of Smith, the GOP retook the district over lingering doubt from the Hill scandal and Republicans giving special special focus to Hispanic and middle-class voters. The final tally had Garcia winning with nearly 55% of the vote. It was the first time since 1998 that a House district had been flipped back to a Republican.
The Democrats refocused on the November election, once again bringing Smith in as their candidate, due to her primary victory in March. The party expected a high anti-Trump turnout. But Garcia remained strong throughout the election, not losing ground the way Knight had lost to Hill in 2018 by changing up his platform by including more on reducing the national debt and instituting term limits, making the Smith campaign scramble for responses. Possible FEC violations also hurt Smith going into November, while Garcia did everything possible to keep Hispanic votes in the GOP’s favor in the 25th. Garcia would end up winning again, but only by a razor thin majority of 333 votes.
Garcia has had a mostly quiet term in Congress the past few years, but has been criticized for not voting to impeach President Donald Trump, voting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and calling for a Congressional investigation into some of Governor Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 policies. While those and other actions have bolstered Republican support, they alienated many Democrats in the region who may possibly have voted for him.
Another likely close Garcia-Smith election
This hole in support might have been filled by Smith going into Tuesday, but problems have arisen during the primary season. For one, Smith’s past in supporting police defunding is now coming back to bite her after a statewide rise in crime has led many to push police funding back up. For another, Quartey has been a major thorn in her side in securing the support of Democrats, as Quartey has attracted many with some policies and stances being more left than her that are attractive to many, such as tackling the issue of income inequality. His stance on gun control has also helped him attract many voters following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas last month.
According to a Remington poll in April, Garcia is currently leading the race with 44% of the vote, Smith with 34% and Quartey with 10%. Other candidates, or those remaining undecided stood at 12%. Under the assumption that the Democratic winner, likely Smith, will reabsorb any and all blue votes, and the 12% is split down the line with voters on the fence, the 2022 27th District race is looking a lot like the 2020 25th District race right now. While the exact figures are not yet known for June, with many variables likely swinging the election one way or another for Garcia or the Democratic challenger in November.
“The key is Latino voters and middle class voters in the 27th District, just how it was under the old lines,” explained Gina DeSimone, a Washington-based analyst who is focusing on close Congressional races in Western states in 2022, to the Globe on Monday. “Everyone is saying this is a toss-up, and they are correct. But Garcia hasn’t exactly been attracting many Democrats to switch over, Smith is still seen by many as a two-time loser, and the others have not been generating enough support to beat out Smith. If anything, they’ve been hurting her by splintering support in some areas.
“In all likelihood, it will be Garcia and Smith fighting it out in their third election in three years. It’s a swing district, but Democrats have continued to seep in slowly and the GOP is generating more support due to the mid-terms and general backlash against Biden. And right now Biden is at only a 40% approval rating on the aggregate. That won’t exactly help Smith out. We’re looking at another dogfight here, especially since the Democrats really want this seat back after being embarrassed by losing it in 2020 and the GOP wants to hold it to keep a major presence in Southern California.”
The primary election is to be held tomorrow, June 7th.
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