Congressman Mike Garcia (R-CA) was announced as the winner of the 27th District House race on Wednesday, defeating former Assemblywoman Christy Smith for the third time in a row, and being the deciding race in helping the GOP clinch a majority in the House.
While the fight over the contentious LA County/Ventura County District has been going on for over a decade, the recent Garcia-Smith battles date back to 2018, when Katie Hill defeated GOP incumbent Steve Knight for what was then the 25th District House seat. Hill’s blue wave victory was short lived however, with Hill quickly embroiling herself in numerous controversial acts, including inappropriate relationships with staffers in her office, and a “throuple,” resulting in a huge scandal. A House ethics investigation was launched against her, and Hill resigned in October 2019. This resulted in a special election between then-Assemblywoman Smith and Garcia, a fighter pilot and Raytheon executive fighting as an outsider. With the scandal lingering, the May 2020 special election was expected to be close, only for Garcia to win with a whopping 55% of the vote.
Embarrassed, Democrats quickly refocused on the November 2020 in the district, with Smith running against Garcia again. Despite strong anti-Trump sentiment and the Hill scandal faded from memory, Garcia led a spirited campaign with a Latino focus while Smith dropped the ball with possible FEC violations coming in only days before the election. Garcia wound up winning again, but this time by only a thin 333 vote margin. Denied again, Democrats worked on getting more favorable new boundaries in redistricting, with the 27th District now representing the area for the 2022 race. Smith, running against Garcia for a third time, was close to Garcia for much of the race, leading many to think that it could be a reversal of 2019 and 2020. However, changing economic factors and a late GOP surge in support cut Smith’s support off in October, with the district going from toss-up to leaning more and more Republican.
Results coming in last Tuesday failed to declare a winner, and while Garcia began pulling ahead more, Smith remained within the bounds of possibly winning until Wednesday. With support dwindling, Smith fired off several tweets on Sunday saying that she had received almost zero support from the Democrats, putting the blame on the national party for her performance.
“Our campaign got next to zero outside resources to fight this battle,” exclaimed Smith. “When it comes to paid comms on TV, digital and mail, without DC help to define Garcia and elevate our positive agenda, we didn’t stand a chance. With the possibility that the district would be the tipping point to hold the House, the utter lack of investment made no sense.”
Victory for Garcia
With 75% of the votes counted on Wednesday, Garcia was declared the victor with 89,550 votes, or 54.2%, to Smith’s 75,704 votes, or 45.8%, despite being in a district where Biden won by 12 points in 2020 and more registered Democrats voters. The called victory, at the same time, became the critical vote needed for the GOP to move past the majority threshold, giving the Republicans control of the House for at least the next two years.
“It will be an honor for me to represent you in the majority,” said Garcia. “I look forward to delivering all forms of security for our district and our nation, whether you voted for me or not.”
Smith, meanwhile conceded, tweeting, “There is so much more work to be done to reach voters here who no longer see the value of their vote. I know that work will continue in the hands of very dedicated local Democrats.”
Thank you!???? pic.twitter.com/fCk00hUPUd
— Christy Smith (@ChristySmithCA) November 17, 2022
“Three times in a row, this time by a large percentage. Smith is becoming poison to the Democrats at this point,” Gina DeSimone, a Washington-based analyst who is focusing on close Congressional races in Western states in 2022, told the Globe Thursday. “She needs to restart more locally by being Mayor or maybe an elected County position first. She’s proven time and time again that voters do not want her in the House there. She can blame the national party all day, but when it comes down to it, she was the one who failed.”
“As for Garcia, he defeated his nemesis yet again, and became the victory that moved the Republicans past that needed 218 line for House control. The election there really came down to national sentiment on many issues. I didn’t work in many races this year, but it won out the day there. In 2024, the Democrats will need a bold new strategy there, and mission number one will be to run anyone but Smith. She’s a Democrat that lost in what should be a blue district for the third time in a row. They won’t stand for a fourth.”
As of Thursday afternoon, several other House races in California have yet to be called.
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