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Republicans Win Back SoCal Congressional Seat Democrats Flipped in 2018

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Republican Mike Garcia in an undated campaign photo. (Wikimedia Commons)

Republican Mike Garcia emerged as the apparent victor Wednesday in a special election held in California’s 25th Congressional District, flipping back a seat that Democrats claimed as part of their ‘blue wave’ in 2018.

Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot, opened up a wide lead over Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith, in a district covering the Simi, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys north of Los Angeles.

"After seeing more results last night, it is clear that our message of lower taxes and ensuring we don't take liberal Sacramento dysfunction to Washington prevailed," Garcia said in a statement.

The election was the most high-profile contest to take place during California’s stay-at-home order, and the pandemic uniquely shaped the two-month campaign. Both parties spent over $1 million in the race, crafting messages around the crisis. And because of California’s stay-at-home order, all voters received a ballot in the mail.

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As of Wednesday morning, Garcia had captured 56% of the vote, compared to 44% for Smith.

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

The congressional seat has been vacant since October when freshman Democrat Katie Hill resigned after she was accused of sexual misconduct, which she denied, and nude photos of her were published.

Garcia’s victory marks the first time California Republicans have flipped a congressional seat since 1998. When he takes office, Garcia will become the only Republican in Congress representing a district in which Hillary Clinton won a majority of votes in the 2016 presidential election.

People wait to vote at a voting station for the special election between Democratic state assemblywoman Christy Smith and Republican businessman and ex-Navy pilot Mike Garcia to replace former Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill in the state's 25th Congressional District, in Santa Clarita on May 12, 2020.
People wait to vote at a voting station for the special election between Democratic state assemblywoman Christy Smith and Republican businessman and ex-Navy pilot Mike Garcia to replace former Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill in the state's 25th Congressional District, in Santa Clarita on May 12, 2020. (MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s unpopularity in the district did not deter him from getting involved in the campaign; he tweeted multiple endorsements of Garcia, and last week labeled the election ‘rigged’ because an in-person voting center was added in Lancaster, one of the more liberal parts of the district even though it has a Republican mayor.

Garcia turned some conventional thinking on its head as results rolled in from Los Angeles County on Tuesday night.

In recent congressional elections, votes cast on Election Day have tilted left – but Garcia saw his lead grow among the thousands of voters who did venture to the polls on Tuesday. It's unclear if that was a reflection of Democrats being less likely than Republicans to venture out to vote during the pandemic.

The two candidates will meet again on the ballot in November in an election for a full two-year term beginning in January.

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