Assemblywoman Christy Smith, Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel and former Assemblywoman Young Kim were holding onto unsteady leads Wednesday in three of the closest Southland congressional races in recent memory.
California election officials reported 100% of the same-day vote had been counted Wednesday, but thousands of mail-in, provisional and conditional registration ballots were still uncounted. Mail-in ballots can be received and counted for as many as 17 days after the election, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.
There are 618,200 ballots left to be counted in Los Angeles County, according to Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan.
As of Wednesday morning, Orange County election officials said there were nearly 212,000 ballots still left to be tallied, along with an unknown number of mail ballots that haven’t arrived.
Smith, D-Santa Clarita, was clinging to a 1,722-vote lead in her bid to unseat Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, in a rematch in the 25th Congressional District, according to figures released Wednesday by the Secretary of State’s Office.
Smith had 50.3% of the vote, to Garcia’s 49.7%, or 136,595 votes to Garcia’s 134,873 votes.
Smith was hoping to avenge a loss to Garcia in a May 12 special election prompted by the resignation of Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, following the online release of salacious photos and allegations of an extramarital affair with a staff member.
The seat had long held by Republicans until Hill’s 2018 victory over then-Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale.
Tuesday’s election was the fourth time in nine months Garcia had faced Smith. In March, Smith and Garcia finished one-two in a special election to fill the remainder of Hill’s term. Because no candidate received a majority, a runoff was needed.
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 won and was sworn into Congress.
The winner in the current race will take 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 touted 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 Orange County’s coastal 48th District, Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Newport Beach, trailed Steel, the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, by 2,851 votes.
Steel held 50.42% of the vote to Rouda’s 49.58%, or 171,461 votes to Rouda’s 168,610 . In this evening’s update, Steel picked up 2,282 votes and Rouda 1,381 votes.
Rouda had 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 she was running to provide a “strong voice in Washington, D.C., who will honor promises made and stand up for us and our values.”
She 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.”
Kim led Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Yorba Linda, by 1,683 votes, 50.3%-49.7%, in the race to represent the 39th Congressional District, which consists of portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Kim has 138,425 votes and Cisneros 136,742.
The race 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 House members, only to be overtaken by Cisneros in late-arriving ballots.
Another close race was in the 34th Congressional District, representing a large chuck of central Los Angeles County. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, seemed to be fending off a strong challenge from fellow Democrat David Kim, who billed himself as a more progressive choice. Gomez had 52.6%, 78,984 votes, to Kim’s 47.4%, 71,042 votes.
In a closely watched race for the 45th Congressional District seat in Orange County, Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, seemed headed to victory over Republican Greg Raths.
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 Republican seat but has seen a growing influx of Democrats.
Porter had 54.24% of the vote to Raths’ 45.7%, or 192,756 votes to 162,616 votes. The district covers an inland area between roughly Mission Viejo and Yorba Linda.
In the 49th Congressional District straddling Orange and San Diego counties, Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, appears bound for victory over Republican challenger Brian Maryott, a San Juan Capistrano councilman, with 54.7% (171,103 votes) to 45.3% (141,975 votes).
Levin issued a statement saying he was “incredibly grateful” to voters for sending him back to Congress.
“Over the past two years, I have worked across the aisle to improve the lives of the people I serve and deliver results on our local priorities. We have made a lot of bipartisan progress to clean up the Tijuana River Valley, protect our environment, and strengthen benefits for veterans, but there is much more work to do,” Levin said.
Levin thanked his family and staff as well as Maryott, saying his “dedication and passion for our district is admirable.”