Mike Garcia
Mike Garcia. Campaign photo

Republican aerospace executive Mike Garcia holds a 56%-44% lead over Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the special election to fill the congressional seat formerly held by Democrat Katie Hill, according to semi-official results released Wednesday.

However, there are still many outstanding ballots to be counted in the nearly entirely vote-by-mail election, according to Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan. The first update will be provided Friday, Logan said.

Vote-by-mail ballots that were received at the in-person voting sites and drop-boxes in Ventura County will begin to be counted Wednesday, with the first update set to be released at 4 p.m., according to the Ventura County Clerk-Recorder, Registrar of Voters Mark A. Lunn.

Garcia has 80,337 votes to 62,998 for Smith, according to figures released by election officials early Wednesday.

“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.”

The Garcia campaign released a statement at 9:39 p.m. including this comment from the candidate, “While the night is early and there are still votes to be counted, we are confident our message of low taxes and not taking Sacramento dysfunction to Washington has resonated with the voters of California.

“This district has been without leadership for far too long, and the people here need a strong independent voice fighting for them in D.C., especially during these challenging times.

“I’d like to thank everyone in the 25th Congressional District for their support, and I want them to know when victory is finally declared, I plan to be a voice for those who voted for me and those who did not.”

Smith said in a statement issued by her campaign that she was “extremely grateful for the support our campaign has received from every corner of this district.”

“The outcome of this race remains too early to call,” Smith said. “With so much at stake in this election for families across the district, from access to quality health care to putting the needs of the middle class at the center of future economic relief packages passed in Congress, it is critical that every ballot cast is counted and the voice of every CA-25 voter is heard.

“Tomorrow I will return to the state Assembly to continue to fight for vital resources for California families. I would like to thank the dedicated volunteers who have served as the heart of this campaign and look forward to seeing a thorough counting of the remaining ballots.”

There were nine vote centers open Tuesday, seven in Los Angeles County. 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. He 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. She 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.” Former President Barack Obama recorded a robocall on Smith’s behalf.

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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