Mike Garcia has double digit lead in race to fill Dem Katie Hill’s California seat

Republican aerospace executive Mike Garcia took the lead and is the likely winner in his race over Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the special election to fill the congressional seat vacated by Democrat Katie Hill.

Garcia tweeted the following statement Tuesday evening:

Los Angeles Times reports Republican Mike Garcia jumped to an early lead Tuesday over Democrat Christy Smith in the runoff for a House seat in the Los Angeles suburbs, raising GOP hopes of flipping a blue California congressional district for the first time since 1998.

Early results in the election to fill the remainder of Rep. Katie Hill’s first term showed Garcia, a defense industry executive, ahead of Democratic state Assemblywoman Smith of Santa Clarita by 11 percentage points, with 76% of precincts reporting.

The initial count included all vote by mail ballots received and processed by Ventura County as of 8 p.m., but only mail-in ballots received in Los Angeles County prior to Tuesday.

The final tally in the nearly all mail-in ballot contest won’t be available for several days — ballots postmarked by Tuesday and received by end of day Friday will be counted. But Garcia’s lead suggests the 25th congressional district, which includes Palmdale, Porter Ranch, Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and part of Lancaster, is within his party’s reach.

In the weeks leading up to the election, both parties acknowledged the race would be competitive, despite Democrats’ 6.6-point voter registration advantage. Lower turnout elections such as Tuesday’s runoff tend to draw an older and whiter electorate, usually to the advantage of Republicans.

The coronavirus outbreak also put an end to traditional campaigning and get-out-the-vote efforts such as door knocking and rallies. Both candidates have alluded to the pandemic in their ads: Garcia accused Smith of failing to use her position leading an emergency management committee in Sacramento to respond to COVID-19, and Smith criticized his opposition to the Affordable Care Act and tied him to President Donald Trump, who endorsed him, and his response to the virus.

If Garcia does prevail, he’ll go to Washington to fill Hill’s seat, while also campaigning for the Nov. 3 general election to win a new term that begins January 2021.

Hill resigned in October 2019 after nude photos of her were leaked and she was accused of having an affair with a congressional staffer, a violation of House ethics rules. She has denied the allegation.

It’s unclear whether the uncounted ballots include enough last-minute Democratic votes to change the outcome of the final results, as has happened in past California House races. As of Tuesday afternoon, 45% of registered Republicans, 31% of registered Democrats and 22% of independents had returned their ballots, according to Political Data Inc., an election analysis firm.

The initial count released by election officials Tuesday night included 139,000 votes out of the more than 425,000 ballots sent to every registered voter in the district, though not all ballots will be returned.

There were seven vote centers in Los Angeles County and two in Ventura County, as well as more than two dozen vote-by-mail drop boxes. By mid-afternoon Tuesday only 200 voters had visited the in-person voting centers at the Simi Valley Public Library and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Ventura County.

Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, Democrats say Smith will fare better in November, when the presidential election will boost turnout.

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