Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, was re-elected Tuesday evening to the House seat representing the Riverside metropolitan area by a wide margin over Republican challenger Aja Smith.
Takano was leading 65.5%-34.5% with more than 95,000 votes counted, according to figures released by the Secretary of State’s Office.
Smith is a U.S. Air Force Reserve technical sergeant who grew up in Moreno Valley who was seeking to become Riverside County’s first Black woman House member.
Takano, who was first elected in 2012, ran on a record of strengthening social welfare programs, including Medicare and Social Security, as well as promoting the rights of working class people.
Takano has been involved with programs aimed at ensuring veterans receive services to which they’re entitled, and as a former educator, has supported increasing funding and resources for schools, according to campaign literature.
Takano has also been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration and took an arguably hard line against the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in early May, when the board first voted to reduce local austerity measures stemming from the coronavirus emergency.
Takano openly opposed the move, citing public health concerns, despite a groundswell of support for it among community members.
“I have expanded access to healthcare for veterans, defended immigrants (and) worked to create high-paying jobs in the Inland Empire,” Takano said in a campaign statement.
“Since taking office, I have passed laws that have supported students, extended health benefits for Vietnam veterans and protected veteran-owned businesses.”
Smith made preserving March Air Reserve Base, which has been threatened with closure under federal base realignment measures in the past, as well as lowering taxes on businesses, fortifying national defense and improving public safety her top campaign priorities.
Smith pointed to her deployments overseas as broadening her understanding of international affairs and the need for the U.S. to remain strong militarily.
In campaign literature, Smith sharply criticized Takano for supporting then-President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, resulting in the Middle Eastern nation, which the U.S. State Department has long designated a terrorist sponsoring state, receiving sanctions relief and access to upwards of $100 billion in previously frozen assets.
In exchange, Iran was supposed to table its nuclear ambitions.
Smith said she is not out to score “cheap political points” by making lofty promises she cannot fulfill, and said like other constituents, she is “sick of Washington, D.C., politicians who aren’t Black lecture Riverside County African-Americans about race.”
According to Smith, she could genuinely speak to race issues and do a better job than her opponent addressing them.
The 41st Congressional District encompasses all of Riverside, Jurupa Valley, Moreno Valley, Perris and unincorporated communities that are immediately adjacent to the cities.
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