Republican Mike Garcia Flips Democratic Held House Seat in California Special Election
2020 Election

Republican Mike Garcia Flips Democratic Held House Seat in California Special Election

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Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith conceded defeat Wednesday afternoon in California’s 25th District special election on Wednesday, congratulating her opponent, former Navy pilot Mike Garcia as the “likely victor.”

“While it’s critical that we ensure every vote is counted and recorded, we believe that the current tally shows Mike Garcia is the likely victor in the May 12 special election,” Smith said in a statement posted on Facebook. “As such, I’d like to congratulate him.”

As of late Tuesday night, with 76 percent of the vote conducted almost totally by mail, Garcia had 56 percent of the vote to Smith 44 percent and trailed by more than 17,000 votes

Garcia declared victory earlier on Wednesday, saying in a statement “I’m ready to go to work right away.”

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“It is clear that our message of lower taxes and ensuring we don’t take liberal Sacramento dysfunction to Washington prevailed,” Garcia added. “For too long, the people of our district have not had representation, and it’s time their voice is heard in Washington.”

The special election was held on Tuesday to fill the seat vacated last fall by former Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) who resigned amid a House ethics investigation into her inappropriate relationship between her and one of her congressional staffers. Garcia will serve out the last six months of Hill’s first term and will face off against Smith once again in the November general election for a full two-year term.

“That said, this is only one step in this process, and I look forward to having a vigorous debate about the issues in the upcoming November 2020 election, from healthcare access to job creation, aid for working families, investments in local classrooms to wildfire protection, women’s rights and more in the months ahead.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) downplayed the win, despite spending over a million dollars on the race, saying they have a better chance at winning back the seat in November with presidential-level turnout and Garcia running with President Trump at the top of the ticket.

“Christy Smith’s decades of service and longstanding fight to ensure affordable and accessible health care make her the best choice to represent Southern California during these challenging times,” DCCC chairwoman Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) said. “Even the NRCC admits Republicans are in trouble for November. We’re confident that voters will reject Mike Garcia’s attacks on their health care and that Democrats will retake this seat in November.”

The concession from Smith now flips a seat that Democrats reclaimed from GOP control less than two years ago. Hill won by 9 points over incumbent GOP Rep. Steve Knight two years ago and Hillary Clinton carried the district by six points in the 2016 presidential election.

The race was rated as a toss-up and expected to be very close. Democrats became very worried the last few days and expected defeat before polls closed due to early ballot returns showing that more registered Republican submitted ballots than registered Democrats as well.

The election was largely conducted over mail-in-ballots after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring counties to send mail-in ballots to every voter who lives in the 25th congressional district as a safety precaution due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Newson also limited the number of open polling sites to nine centers for voters who preferred to vote in person with special precaution put in place.

Trump celebrated Garcia win Wednesday morning before Smith conceded in a tweet. 

“Big Congressional win in California for Mike Garcia, taking back a seat from the Democrats. This is the first time in many years that a California Dem seat has flipped back to a Republican. Also, Tom Tiffany beat his Democrat rival BIG in Wisconsin. Two great Congressional WINS!”

Garcia’s win marks the first time since 1998 that a Republican has flipped a Democratic-held House seat in California. He will also be the only House Republican to represent a district that Clinton won with over 50% of the vote four years ago.

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Mona Salama