The battle between Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) and Republican challenger Mike Garcia remained very close on Tuesday as voters in the Los Angeles and Ventura County district went to the polls.
A huge division among supporters
Both candidates are vying to finish off resigned Congresswoman Katie Hill’s term for the 25th Congressional District. A longtime GOP district, Hill won in 2018 against former Congressman Steve Knight, flipping the district in the notorious ballot harvesting slaughter.
On Tuesday, the GOP hoped to flip it back as a sign of a new Republican tide while Democrats hoped to hold it and not lose any seats heading into the November election. All recent polls show a tie or Garcia having a slight lead, despite the Democratic Party having thousands more registered voters in the district.
Ramon Valdez, a college student who exit polled outside a PPV equipped Palmdale voting center, noted to the Globe just how close it has been all day.
“I’ve asked almost 200 people so far,” said Valdez, who also said that he had been around to a few other polling centers in the district earlier in the day. “Smith is up by two. That’s it.”
Nadine Jacobs, who had done exit polling by phone on Tuesday morning and afternoon, also noted similar numbers.
“I was personally at 176 for Garcia and 170 for Smith,” remarked Jacobs.
Her colleague, Chantelle Blythe, only confirmed the closeness even more, saying “Garcia 154. Smith 153. Did not vote 71.”
Exit polling shows that coronavirus and it’s economic effects were a major decider among voters
Issues were deeply important to voters. The coronavirus and its effects was the leading reason people gave when voting.
“It was about half and half,” explained Valdez. “Half thought Garcia would bring back business to the area, vote to reduce coronavirus laws and programs nationwide, and generally bring back commerce. His voters tended to give fiscal figures.”
Smith voters voted on a more medical and health basis. They didn’t think Garcia would keep up safety measures. They also believed Smith would bring more aid and relief to not only the district but also California. Several of them even said how they hoped she would ‘cut Trump down a peg’ and make the programs based on medical necessity.
It wasn’t clear cut, but Smith voters based their votes on health reasons and normal stay-at-home orders, with Garcia voters voting on economic reasons and wanting stay-at-home to go away sooner.”
Phone exit polls, which included people who voted by mail, showed similar traits.
“Yeah, that was about my experience,” noted Jacobs. “The big difference was that I noticed a lot more mail-in voters voted for Garcia. especially as the election date got closer. Smith seemed to draw more people in early, but Garcia had more vote as coronavirus dragged on. We couldn’t ask why they voted that way, except for those that volunteered answers without us prompting it, but the coronavirus changed people’s minds.”
Associated controversial political figures weighed in almost as much as the issues themselves
Another major reason appeared to be controversial political figures in both parties.
“A lot of Smith supporters also said they hated Trump as a reason,” continued Valdez. “Like, a lot of them. It wasn’t even about parties. It was just a proxy election for the presidential election almost. Older voters tended to name party preference with Smith, but the younger they were, the more they gave anti-Trump reasons.”
“Garcia’s people generally gave party support more as a reason, but they still named names. [Congresswoman] Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) came up a lot. Hill, of course, did too. The sex scandal was brought up by many people. And dislike of [Governor] Newsom was there too.”
“Interesting thing was that many former undecideds went with Garcia, at least among people I asked. How California responded to the crisis locally, not federally was the kicker, and many simply said Newsom. Although I guess that can be put down as financial too.”
“Phone polls, once again, were similar.”
“Again, we couldn’t ask for reasons. But it seems like people were saying things like ‘I’m with Smith. F— Trump.’ or ‘I’m going with Garcia. We can’t trust Pelosi to do this.'”
“That, and many still seemed to be really upset about Hill and her resignation. Smith voters didn’t really mention it, but many Garcia supporters did. And, once again, we couldn’t ask about it. They just said it as we went through our questions.”
Voters also cared about issues ranging from homelessness to healthcare
While those were the big reasons, several other issues did come up in voter decisions.
“Smith supporters also named her experience as an Assemblywoman as a big plus, and Garcia’s supporters gave his military experience,” said Valdez. “One guy even said ‘They say he has no experience, but Eisenhower also had military experience only and he was pretty good.'”
“Smith supporters also said that Garcia would be a healthcare disaster, and both sides threw out homelessness, being able to afford houses and things like that too.”
“I mean, I got some fun answers too that were really specific, like one guy claiming that Smith once ran him off the road. I don’t know how true that is, but you get the gist.”
“AB 5 did come up, but not as much as you think. Going into March it was the biggest issue – I know, because I did some polls then too. But coronavirus threw it off the radar for a lot of people. It was still a top 5 issue for both sides, but it just wasn’t the main one anymore. For many, even mentioning it seemed like an afterthought.”
“Both sides were very passionate.”
Due to a large influx of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus outbreak having many people vote from home, tallying will most likely take longer than usual as ballots can take a few days to get in. If the vote is close, no winner may be declared for days.
Results are expected trickle in through the night for the 25th district election.