Two years after suffering a series of defeats in Southland congressional races, Republicans will begin their effort Tuesday to regain a foothold in key districts ranging from the Antelope Valley to Orange County.
One particular battleground of note is in the 25th Congressional District, where the resignation of Democrat Katie Hill amid the release of salacious photos online and allegations of an extramarital affair with a staff member has created a wide-open rush for an open seat.
Confusing matters in the district that stretches from the Antelope Valley into Ventura County is the fact that voters are casting ballots twice — once in a special election to fill the balance of Hill’s term, and again in a primary election to fill the seat for the next two years. The major candidates seeking the office appear on both ballots.
If a candidate in the special election earns more than 50% of the vote — an unlikely scenario given the 12-candidate field — the person will win the seat outright to finish out Hill’s term, which runs through the rest of the year. If no one gets a majority, the top two vote-getters will advance to a May 12 runoff.
In the regular primary election, the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.
Democrats are largely pinning their hopes for retaining the seat on Assemblywoman Christy Smith, who has been 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.
Among the other Democrats vying for the seat is Cenk Uygur, who created and co-hosts a YouTube show dubbed “The Young Turks.” Uygur briefly had an endorsement from presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, but the backing was withdrawn amid criticism of some of Uygur’s past statements and positions. Uygur said he is running for the seat largely to “call out” corruption in Washington by getting “money out of politics.” He said he wants to “bring our democracy back to the people.”
Other Democrats in the running are Robert Cooper III, a UCLA professor; lawyer Anibal Valdez-Ortega; Christopher Smith, a filmmaker; and Getro Elize, a patient caseworker.
Leading the list of Republican hopefuls is Steve Knight, the former congressman who lost the seat to Hill two years ago. Knight, an Army veteran and former Los Angeles police officer, also served on the Palmdale City Council and in the state Legislature.
Knight says he proved himself in Washington to be an advocate for “fiscal responsibility, job creation and public safety.” He also said he worked for federal drought relief measures to help the state and prioritized efforts to expand the aerospace industry in the Antelope Valley.
Republican former Navy pilot Mike Garcia is also seeking the seat. He said he was inspired to seek the seat 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.”
Also among the Republican hopefuls is George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He said he continues to support Trump’s agenda, noting his pro-life stance and support of funding construction of a wall on the southern border.
Also on the ballot as Republicans are bankruptcy attorney David Lozano and businessmen Kenneth Jenks and David Mercuri. Otis Lee Cooper, described as a bounty hunter, is running without a political affiliation.
A pair of Orange County congressional races will also be closely watched Tuesday:
— In the 45th Congressional District, Democrat Katie Porter, an attorney and UC Irvine law professor, is being challenged by six Republicans in a district that was long considered a safe conservative area but has seen a growing influx of Democrat voters.
Republicans looking to advance to the November general election in the district are Laguna Hills City Councilman Don Sedgwick, the owner of a chain of jewelry stores; Yorba Linda City Councilwoman Peggy Huang; Lisa Sparks, inaugural dean of Chapman University’s School of Communications; Mission Viejo Councilman and retired Marine Greg Raths; Irvine attorney Christopher Gonzales; and former teacher Rhonda Furin.
The district covers an inland area between roughly Mission Viejo and Yorba Linda.
— In the coastal 48th District, incumbent Democrat Harley Rouda is seeking reelection, and he is widely expected to advance to the November general election against Republican Michelle Steel, the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Rouda said he is dedicated to attacking “relentless diviseveness” in Congress, saying “The time has come to embrace common sense for common ground.” He said he will fight for women’s rights, work to address climate change and support public education.
Steel said she is running for Congress 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.”
Other Republicans in the race are Brian Burley, an IT consultant and business owner; mortgage broker and filmmaker John Thomas Schuesler; and Brian Griffin, owner of a property management company. Retired teacher Richard Mata is running as an Independent.
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