Republican aerospace executive Mike Garcia took a 56%-44% lead over Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the early vote count Tuesday evening in the special election to fill the congressional seat formerly held by Katie Hill.
Garcia led 78,701-62,054, according to figures released by election officials in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
“The data is looking extremely encouraging that we’ve seen so far,” Garcia told supporters on a conference call shortly before 9 p.m.
“I’m extremely humbled by this turnout. I’m proud of the results so far and look forward to declaring victory very soon and getting to work in Washington, D.C. for this beautiful 25th Congressional District in California.”
There will be no update to the vote count in the Ventura County portion of the district Tuesday. Vote-by-mail ballots in the Ventura County will begin being counted Wednesday.
The election was conducted nearly entirely with mail-in ballots. There were nine vote centers open Tuesday, seven in Los Angeles County and 11, 10 in Los Angeles County, in the days leading up to the election.
There were also 22 24-hour drop boxes in Los Angeles County to deposit ballots.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order March 20 requiring that all voters in the district receive a vote-by-mail ballot in an effort to protect public health and safety during the coronavirus outbreak.
Smith, D-Santa Clarita, was trying to become the second consecutive Democrat to win what had been a seat long held by Republicans until Hill’s 2018 victory over then-Rep. Steve Knight.
Smith finished first in the March 3 primary with 36.2% of the vote while Garcia was second with 25.4%. Knight finished third with 17.2%.
Garcia is a graduate of Saugus High School and the U.S. Naval Academy. He was a Navy fighter pilot during the Iraq War and became an executive with the aerospace firm Raytheon Co.
Garcia announced his candidacy on April 10, 2019, slightly more than two months after Hill took office.
“I am running for office because taxes in California are out of control,” Garcia told City News Service. “Southern Californians simply cannot afford more taxes and we cannot take liberal Sacramento policies to Washington.”
Garcia said his experience in the aerospace industry “along with my military credentials makes me uniquely qualified to tackle the national security issues this nation is facing.”
Smith, who will turn 51 on Friday, was elected to the Assembly in 2018 after serving two terms on the governing board of the Newhall School District. She began her career in public service as analyst with the U.S. Department of Education.
“I am running this race making voters a very simple and straightforward promise, that if they elect me to serve them in Congress, I will work day in and day out to find solutions to the pressing problems we now all face like access to affordable health care, and real economic relief for families and local businesses, and I will never get caught up in the politics that so often paralyze our system,” Smith told City News Service.
Smith has lived in Santa Clarita for 39 years, graduating from Hart High School, then attending College of the Canyons and receiving a bachelor’s degree from UCLA.
Both candidates had presidential support. President Donald Trump tweeted his endorsement of Garcia April 20, tweeting that he “will be a tremendous fighter for the U.S. and the State of California.”
“An Annapolis graduate, he served our Country as a highly decorated Navy Fighter Pilot and will be a great Congressman (#CA25),” Trump tweeted. “Loves our Military, and Vets…”
Trump also wrote two tweets Monday in support of Garcia and another one on Tuesday.
Former President Barack Obama recorded a robocall on Smith’s behalf.
The coronavirus outbreak changed the way both candidates campaigned, switching from traditional in-person campaigning to online and telephonic efforts.
Smith said her campaign utilized “a large scale virtual phone banking effort” in place of door-to-door campaigning.
“I am a candidate who loves to have person to person conversations,” Smith said. “When I ran for Assembly I would knock on doors to introduce myself to voters, answer questions, and ask for their support. That is obviously no longer an option and we have had to transition to conversations over the phone and via video chat.”
The Garcia campaign held five virtual town halls, according to campaign’s Lance Trover.
The 25th Congressional District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, and portions of the northern San Fernando Valley, Antelope Valley and eastern Ventura County.
The winner of Tuesday’s election will serve out the remaining seven-plus months of Hill’s term. Garcia and Smith will square off again in the November election for the chance to serve a full two-year term.
Hill announced her resignation Oct. 27 and it became effective Nov. 3, following the release of salacious photos online and allegations of an extramarital affair with a staff member.
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