According to a new report from the Huffington Post, Democrats are bracing themselves for a potential loss in a special election for Rep. Katie Hill’s old seat in California.
Republican Mike Garcia and Democrat Christy Smith took part in a public forum late last month.
Huffpost reports National Democrats are now prepared to lose in a special election to replace California Rep. Katie Hill in Congress, a stinging defeat in a district Democrats flipped less than two years and where the party’s candidate has relentlessly hammered President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Absentee ballot returns and internal polling from both parties indicate that Mike Garcia, a GOP former fighter pilot and defense industry executive running with Trump’s endorsement, is now a clear favorite over Assemblywoman Christy Smith.
The race was set after Hill, a Democrat, resigned from Congress following reports she had an affair with a staffer – a messy scandal that still looms over the election and is hurting Smith’s chances of victory, Democrats said.
“There are no two ways to slice it. We are down right now,” Smith’s campaign wrote in a fundraising email to supporters on Friday. “Republicans are turning in their ballots faster than Democrats. We might just lose this toss-up election.”
Even though Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, Republicans have greatly outnumbered Democrats in returning the ballots that were mailed to every voter in the district because of the pandemic. Democrats in both D.C. and California believe the party will have a better chance of winning the seat in November, when the electorate will be larger and more focused on the president.
Still, there is a possibility Smith will be able to close the gap in the final days. Democrats successfully fought to open a voting center in a minority-majority city in the district for the final days of the contest ― a development that has infuriated Trump, who spread falsehoods about the decision on Saturday.
“So in California, the Democrats, who fought like crazy to get all mail in only ballots, and succeeded, have just opened a voting booth in the most Democrat area in the State,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “They are trying to steal another election. It’s all rigged out there. These votes must not count. SCAM!”
A Smith loss would be tough to take for Democrats in a district where Trump remains deeply unpopular. But while the 2018 cycle saw a slew of close special elections that functioned as previews for the Democratic wave in that year’s midterm elections, operatives in both parties agree this election is more of a standalone event than a harbinger of things to come.
Garcia, a veteran and first-generation American, is the type of candidate Republicans often talk about recruiting but rarely convince to run. While other swing districts in Southern California are located in Orange County, more upscale and trending sharply toward Democrats, the 25th is inland, exurban and less educated, with agriculture, aerospace and defense as significant industries. And Smith has made embarrassing missteps and struggled with fundraising in an ultra-expensive district.