Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) conceded the 25th Congressional District special election late Wednesday night, giving Republican challenger Mike Garcia a virtually confirmed victory.
Christy Smith concedes House race, Garcia claims victory
While 82% of the final vote was in on Thursday, Smith was down around 18,000 votes with 44% of the vote. While it’s theoretically possible that she could still come from behind, she would need to grab almost every unaccounted vote out there in the suburban Los Angeles district. Exit polling on Tuesday showed that current numbers will most likely hold.
“While it’s critical that we ensure every vote is counted and recorded, we believe that the current tally shows Mike Garcia is the likely victor in the May 12th special election. As such, I’d like to congratulate him,” conceded Smith in a statement.
Garcia celebrated his victory on Wednesday. In a tweet, the former fighter pilot confirmed that he was ready for Washington.
I'm ready to go to work… pic.twitter.com/99CPZ6iZH6
— Mike Garcia (@MikeGarcia2020) May 13, 2020
He also released a statement later in the day saying “After seeing more results last night, it is clear that our message of lower taxes and ensuring we don’t take liberal Sacramento dysfunction to Washington prevailed.”
GOP leaders celebrate victory
Garcia’s win, which is the first time the GOP has flipped a house seat in California since 1998 and the first time a Hispanic Republican has won a House seat in California since 1873, drew the attention of many prominent Republicans.
“Congratulations to Congressman-elect Mike Garcia for defying all of the odds and obstacles thrown in his path to decisively win,” stated National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman and Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN) in a press release.
The president himself, who had been following the race, also gave a note of congratulations on Twitter.
“Big Congressional win in California for Mike Garcia, taking back a seat from the Democrats,” tweeted Trump on Wednesday. “This is the first time in many years that a California Dem seat has flipped back to a Republican. Also, Tom Tiffany beat his Democrat rival BIG in Wisconsin. Two great Congressional WINS!”
Big Congressional win in California for Mike Garcia, taking back a seat from the Democrats. This is the first time in many years that a California Dem seat has flipped back to a Republican. Also, Tom Tiffany beat his Democrat rival BIG in Wisconsin. Two great Congressional WINS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2020
Garcia’s win, came about largely due to voters being upset over coronavirus restrictions, GOP voters rallying to take back the district following former Congresswoman Katie Hill’s victory over the Republican incumbent in 2018, Hill’s subsequent lingering sex scandal, Smith’s campaign smearing Garcia’s military record, and where Garcia and Smith stood on issues ranging from AB 5 to homelessness.
What Garcia’s win can mean for November races and 2022
“Garcia winning is going to be a big boost for Republicans,” noted election campaign strategist Monty Conklin. “They just won CA-25. Sure, the GOP held it before 2018 and still has a huge conservative bend there, but the fact that they took back a seat in one of main Democratic states says a lot.”
“This is why Trump and the party are so thrilled about this. This is going to give momentum to a lot of races. You know, a ‘If they can win in LA, we can win here’ kind of thinking.”
“They shouldn’t get cocky about it or assume that this is enough to turn the tide. It isn’t. But this race is a look at things to come in November, especially now in a COVID-19 locked down country. And it shows the GOP coming narrowly out ahead. They’re still worried about many races, first and foremost the presidential election. But this gave them a shot in the arm at just the right time for them.”
“Dems aren’t worried about losing the House, but they are worried about their ranks being thinned. Between the 2020 election and the redistricting that’s coming that is projecting many red states gaining seats and many blue states losing seats, like California, they stand to be on weaker footing in 2022.”
Smith, Democrats to get ready for November rematch in the 25th
Smith’s team, meanwhile, will begin gearing up for the November election against Garcia, as the March primary decided who would run in the 25th both in May and November. Her team is banking on a renewed disgruntlement with Trump and registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans in the district.
“I look forward to having a vigorous debate about the issues in the upcoming November 2020 election, from health care access to job creation, aid for working families, investments in local classrooms to wildfire protection, women’s rights and more in the months ahead,” added Smith in her statement.
Garcia’s stance on health care, as well as any Congress faux pas’ Garcia commits in the next several months, will also be watched closely by Democrats as ammunition against him in November.
“We’re confident that voters will reject Mike Garcia’s attacks on their health care, and that Democrats will retake this seat in November,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairwoman and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) in a statement.
Garcia is expected to take up his new Congressional position by the summer. Smith will be returning to the Assembly before the two meet again for a full two-year Congressional term in November.