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Congressional candidates Mike Garcia and Christy Smith at a virtual Congressional forum on April 24th. (Photo: Youtube)

May 12th Special Election Preview

25th Congressional, 28th State Senate Districts up for grabs in SoCal

By Evan Symon, May 11, 2020 8:56 pm

A special election is due in California on Tuesday, May 12th. Two major races will be up for grabs in California, both in the Southern part of the state.

With the 25th Congressional District and the 28th State Senate District each projecting close votes, the California Globe takes a look at both races and what may happen on election day.

25th Congressional District

Christy Smith
State Rep. Christy Smith. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

CA-25, currently vacant due to former Congresswoman Katie Hill resigning last year due to a sex scandal, is the main special election race being watched by the national parties tomorrow. The outer ring Los Angeles district has already had a tumultuous primary election in which Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) won out with 36% of the vote while Republican and former Navy pilot Mike Garcia upset former Congressman Steve Knight 24% to 18% on his old turf for the second ballot spot. Smith and Garcia have been virtually neck-to-neck since then.

Both candidates have also been slammed hard for the last two months. Smith’s camp has smeared Garcia’s military service and having her campaign instead of being in Sacramento trying to help with federal coronavirus measures, despite chairing the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. Garcia, meanwhile, has been plagued by his lack of lawmaking or elected position experience and by his early lack of name recognition.

The independent contractor redefinition law AB 5, health care,  and the question of what measures should be taken against coronavirus have been three of the larger points in the campaign, with Smith favoring and even voting for AB 5 while Garcia remains adamantly against it. Smith has also attacked Garcia’s health care positions, with Garcia attacking Smith back by saying that her AB 5 support is killing jobs. Both of those issues have only become more heated following California’s lockdown and subsequent massive statewide job loss.

A neck-to-neck race

Congressional Candidate Mike Garcia. (Photo: electmikegarcia.com)

Both Smith and Garcia have been fighting so hard primarily because of the poll numbers showing them in a virtual dead heat, with Smith showing a little more stress due to some polls showing her a little off Garcia’s totals. FiveThirtyEight, which combines top polls into averages, currently is saying the race is a toss up. Cook Political says the exact same thing. More localized polls like 1892 polling are showing Garcia being slightly above.

Both parties sure have noticed too. Both candidates had some of the highest 2020 quarter 1 raising and spending out there, with both parties dumping millions more into the race.

The added factor of the coronavirus and mail-in ballots have also thrown a curveball into the race. Smith, whose strengths include in-person appearances, has been hampered by the coronavirus, with Garcia adapting to the remote politicking quite well. Mail-in voters in the district also tend to favor Republicans, while in-person voting in larger cities like Lancaster favor Democrats. With in-person voting hitting the brakes, the GOP has a new “in for a victory.

The GOP wants to stop the blue wave both nationally and in California, and the beachhead leading up to November would be a victory in the 25th. The Democrats don’t want to give any inroads, especially this close to the normally reliable LA area. The position itself would last only a little more than a year, as the term expires in January 2021 and the November race will just pit the two against each other again.

It’s way too close to call, but Garcia and the GOP might just come away with the underdog victory here.

28th Senate District

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Former Senator Jeff Stone resigned last year to take up a Trump Administration position in Washington. This opened up the race in the 28th Senate District, which stretches from the outer suburbs of Los Angeles straight east to the Nevada border.

Several candidates lined up for the March primary as the district was slowly moving from the right to the center. Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) won with over 40% of the vote in March. Among Democrats, UC Riverside assistant Vice Chancellor and Coachella Valley Unified School District Board Member Elizabeth Romero beat out challenger Joy Silver in a close 23% to 21% for the second ballot slot.

State Senate Candidate Elizabeth Romero. (Photo: Twitter)

Melendez has proven herself to be a popular Assemblywoman and is poised to grab the “bread and butter” votes in the district, as well as many in her home city of Lake Elsinore and military voters. However, Romero appeals to those in urban areas in the district like Palm Springs. Her UC Riverside position also wins out many voters on education.

The primary election brought out more Republican than Democrat voters, with Republicans totaling over half the votes. With coronavirus mail-in ballots favoring Republican voters here as well, Melendez will most likely come away with the victory. It will be close to be certain, perhaps only a few percentage points away. And due to all the mail-in votes needing to be tallied as they come in, we may not know for certain who won for days afterwards. But right now all the signs point to Melendez.

The new normal of voting and what these elections mean

With the coronavirus lockdown now in full swing, there will most likely be a large uptick of voters voting via mail. In-person polling places will remain open albeit with the now-normal mask and sanitizer routine. But the effect on voters, especially who votes, who doesn’t vote because they want to do it in-person, and what problems erupt because of the increased mail voting will be watched closely as a pre-cursor to the November election.

Also being watched, specifically in California? To see if there are signs that the blue wave is still continuing or is now receding in the state.

No matter which way you look at it, these two elections are going to be talked about for months afterwards, for better or for worse.

Evan Symon
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