Christy Smith and Mike Garcia are having a rematch Tuesday in the 25th Congressional District, with Smith hoping to avenge an earlier loss to the Republican Garcia and reclaim the seat for the Democratic Party.
It’ll technically be the fourth time in nine months the duo have faced off at the ballot box. In March, Smith and Garcia finished one-two in a special election to fill out the term of Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned following the online release of salacious photos and allegations of an extramarital affair with a staff member.
On that same ballot, Smith and Garcia also topped essentially the same field of candidates in a separate primary race to fill Hill’s seat for the next two years.
In May, Smith and Garcia squared off in the runoff of the March special election to complete Hill’s original term, and Garcia emerged victorious and was sworn into Congress.
Now the pair is facing off again, with the winner taking over the seat for the next two years.
The 25th District stretches from the Antelope Valley into Ventura County. It was one of several Southland districts targeted by Republicans after sweeping losses the party suffered in 2018.
Smith was endorsed by many of the area’s biggest Democratic names and by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Her campaign website touts a variety of priority issues, led by improving public education, ending “corruption in Washington,” boosting support for first responders and ensuring access to affordable health care.
Garcia is a former Navy pilot who said he was inspired to vie for the post because Hill “did not represent our moderate district. I have the choice to stand on the sidelines and see what happens but that is not in my DNA. This is an extension of my desire to serve, this time to fight for my district.”
In a closely watched race in Orange County, Democratic Rep. Katie Porter will compete with Republican Greg Raths for the 45th Congressional District seat. Porter, an attorney and UC Irvine law professor, was challenged in the March primary by Raths and five other Republicans in a district that was long considered a safe conservative area but has seen a growing influx of Democrat voters.
The district covers an inland area between roughly Mission Viejo and Yorba Linda.
In the coastal 48th District, incumbent Democrat Harley Rouda is fighting for another term against Republican Michelle Steel, the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Rouda has touted his achievements in Congress, insisting he can work across the aisle to reach consensus agreements. He said he wants to “continue our work to lower prescription drug costs, protect our coastline, and stand up to the insiders and special interests that run Washington.”
Steel said during her campaign that she is running to provide a “strong voice in Washington, D.C., who will honor promises made and stand up for us and our values.” She has pointed to her work on the Board of Supervisors, saying she fought higher taxes while working to reduce traffic congestion and “ensuring our bays and coastlines are clean.”
It is expected to be a close race, insiders say. Democrats have returned 110,223 ballots, compared with 115,949 for Republicans. Undeclared and voters from other parties have returned 76,985 ballots.
“The Harley Rouda race, we are watching closely,” said Ada Briceno, chairwoman of the Orange County Democratic Party, acknowledging it will likely be a nail biter.
Another Orange County congressional race being closely watched is Rep. Gil Cisneros’ battle with former Assemblywoman Young Kim in the 39th District. It is a rematch of 2018, when Cisneros defeated the former Rep. Ed Royce’s protege.
Two years ago, Kim was leading and even traveled to Washington, D.C., for orientation for newly elected congressional representatives, only to be overtaken by Cisneros in late-arriving ballots in a district that has residents in Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino counties.
So far, 98,750 Democrats have returned ballots, 83,060 Republicans have turned in their votes, and 65,789 voters who are undeclared or third-party voters have turned in ballots.
Fred Whitaker, chairman of the Orange County GOP, said, “We think we have an outside shot in (the 49th congressional district),” referring to the matchup between Democratic Rep. Mike Levin and Republican challenger Brian Maryott.
“The primary focus has been on the 39th and 48th” districts, Whitaker said.
“Young Kim and Michelle Steel are doing very well in polls and outraising the Democrats and the turnout teams are really good there,” Whitaker said. “I took a look at yesterday’s numbers and Republicans have outvoted Democrats in Congressional 48th, and they’re not very far behind in 39. And most of our voters are voting on election day.”
UC Irvine political science professor Louis DeSipio said the race between Rouda and Steel “is a little more competitive, even though that one looks safe (for Democrats).”
DeSipio speculated that Republicans have been “distracted by the national race and haven’t been able to put more energy into retaking that seat.” He said he was “pretty confident” Democrats will hang onto the four congressional seats they flipped two years ago.
DeSipio said it has been a “successful strategy” for Democrats to tie Republicans to President Donald Trump.
“Plus, there are some particular issues around immigration that the president has taken that probably don’t sit well with Republican-leaning” voters, he said.
Some of the policies are “complicating even legal immigration. If you have a family member abroad, and a lot of people in Orange County (do), it’s not looking too bright on bringing them over,” DeSipio said.
Cal State Fullerton political science professor Matthew Jarvis said he does not anticipate an early night as far as returns from Orange County.
“California took forever to count all the votes for these local contests in 2018 and you put a pandemic and much more people voting by mail on top of that and we won’t know tonight for anything competitive,” Jarvis said.
But Jarvis anticipates Democrats will perform well.
“My sense is it looks like Democrats are in for at least a decent night,” Jarvis said. “That said, I did drive by Sunday a fairly decent-sized Trump rally at Yorba Linda and Imperial Highway.”
Jarvis anticipates Porter will cruise to victory.
“We can call that now,” he said, adding Republicans “clearly gave up” and failed to field a competitive candidate.
“Porter has done really well with social media,” Jarvis said. “Cisneros is running more of a ’90s campaign — stay silent … He’s been really kind of trying to play it moderate and let there be no news and people might vote for me because of a moderate approach. Katie Porter, in a similar enough district, has gone completely in a different direction.”