On Monday, Congressman Mike Garcia (R-CA) formally defeated Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) in the 25th Congressional District race following a concession speech by Smith.
With ballot counting now ending in the district, Garcia cemented a narrow 300+ vote lead, winning 169,638 to Smith’s 169, 305. Garcia had steadily been boosting his vote margin since mid-November when there had been only 100 votes between the two candidates.
The 25th District, located in Southern California in both Los Angeles County and Ventura County, 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 many controversial acts, including inappropriate relationships with staffers, 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. This resulted in a rough and tumble primary that led to Assemblywoman Smith and former Navy pilot 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 due to 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 same 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.
After nearly a month of ballot counting and razor thing voting changes, Smith finally conceded to her second House race loss this year.
“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 on Monday. “Over the last few weeks, our attorneys reviewed thousands of uncounted ballots and our campaign volunteers undertook an extraordinary effort to cure hundreds of votes throughout the district that may not have been counted. We exhausted every possible option, and did everything within our power to ensure that every voice in this election was heard. Nonetheless, we came up short.
“Though I’m humbled by every vote we earned, the results show our district is deeply divided. With so many issues laid bare by this pandemic and moment of crisis in our nation’s politics, I will continue to be a voice for the unheard and unseen, working families, small businesses, our environment and the schools in our district and state. I am ready to work with partners across our community to heal division, move forward and rebuild together.”
— Christy Smith (@ChristyforCA25) December 1, 2020
Congressman Garcia, who had claimed victory earlier in November, accepted Smith’s concession on Monday, saying in a short statement that he would “be honored to serve.”
“My focus is on representing all constituents in CA-25,” noted Garcia on Monday. “In the short term, this means pushing to get federal relief to those who are most impacted by COVID, individuals and small businesses. It’s been a tough election, but the fight has been worth it. I am looking forward to two more years. Thank you CA-25!”
A big year for House Republicans in California
Garcia’s win also caps off a big Congressional year for California Republicans, who gained several seats, took back most of the Orange County House districts, and finally crested back the number of blue House seats in California for the first time since the late 90’s.
“Garcia barely held off Smith, but nonetheless did,” said Heath Becker, a New York political analyst who focused on swing districts during the 2020 election, in an interview with the Globe. “But look elsewhere. Kim and Steel won in Orange County. Valadao retook his district. A lot of House races were even closer than Democrats would have liked. John Garamendi (D-CA) in the 3rd District, Mike Levin (D-CA) in the 49th, Katie Porter (D-CA) in the 45th, Josh Harder (D-CA) in the 10th and a lot of others are going to be on high alert in two years. Republicans may have lost ground in the state level, but House seats themselves are turning out to be huge victories. We’ll see how they gerrymander the districts for 2022, but right now, Republicans are on the cusp of gaining more ground.
“They learned what they need to do from the successes of this year. Go more moderate, reconnect with middle-class voters, reach out to Latinos more. And with mid-terms potentially hurting them in 2022, plus the growing unpopularity of Gavin Newsom and Joe Biden eyeing at taking many Dems from the state for his cabinet, which would trigger a lot of special elections next year, the 2020’s could be the GOP’s decade in California.”
The 25th Congressional race was the last outstanding contested House race in California to be decided, although recounts and final counting may continue in December for some races.