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Tom Kisken, Ventura County Star
Published 12:09 a.m. ET May 13, 2020 | Updated 12:48 p.m. ET May 13, 2020
A special election to fill the congressional seat left vacant after Katie Hill’s resignation.The winner will serve out Hill’s current term through Nov.
CAMARILLO, Calif. – Republican Mike Garcia jumped to a commanding lead over Democrat Christy Smith in a nationally watched special election Tuesday to win office in a California congressional district both parties see as their turf.
With 139,245 votes counted in an election conducted almost totally by mail because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Garcia held 56% of the vote and Smith gained 44% of the vote.
The early returns represent vote-by-mail ballots. More than 420,000 ballots were mailed to voters in the district’s two counties and some could still arrive later in the week as long as they are postmarked Tuesday.
The winner fills a seat vacated in November when Democrat Katie Hill resigned amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with staff members. The term expires in January.
Garcia, the former Navy fighter pilot, and Assemblywoman Smith of Santa Clarita will face off again on Nov. 3 for a full two-year term. The 25th District runs from Santa Clarita to Simi Valley with about 70,000 registered voters in Ventura County and more than 350,000 in Los Angeles County.
It’s a so-called swing district held by Republicans since 1993 until Hill claimed it for the Democrats in 2018. If Garcia wins, it would be the first California congressional seat flipped from the Democrats to Republicans in 22 years.
Remember, get out and Vote for Mike Garcia in CA25. A really big deal for our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2020
The battle has attracted attention from some of the biggest names in both parties. President Donald Trump endorsed Garcia and criticized Smith in tweets, also characterizing the last-minute addition of an in-person polling place in Lancaster as an attempt by Democrats to rig the election.
Smith, in one of multiple tweets aimed at Trump, said the additional polling place was supported by Lancaster’s mayor who is a Republican, and was aimed at giving more people a chance to vote in a community where a majority of residents are African American and Latino.
She was endorsed by former President Barack Obama and the candidate Trump defeated in 2016, Hillary Clinton.
Southern Californians in the 25th congressional district:
Don’t forget to mail in your ballot today to choose @ChristyforCA25 as your new representative.
She’s a leader who will fight to help families get through this crisis. https://t.co/RpijIiWf2X
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 12, 2020
Garcia, who flew combat missions in Iraq, has built a career in aerospace, including 10 years at Raytheon. In his first run for public office, he has campaigned for tax cuts, term limits in Congress, protecting national security and preventing California’s liberal policies from emerging nationwide.
“I don’t want my nation to become what this state has become, which is a victim of poor policy and poor execution,” he said in a virtual debate held with Smith in April.
Two years ago, Smith won election to the 38th Assembly District, defeating Republican incumbent Dante Acosta. Before that she served nine years on the Newhall School Board.
“I have 10 years of proven results in this community,” she said at the debate, emphasizing an approach of collective conversations that involve every corner of the communities she represents. “Everyone gets a seat at the table.”
She has campaigned on improving education, ending corruption in federal government and using a public insurance option to make health care more affordable.
A high profile election changed dramatically with the emergence of COVID-19. In March, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered election officials in Ventura and Los Angeles counties to mail ballots to every registered voter.
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Ventura County elections officials reported Tuesday afternoon about 33,000 people had voted by mail so far. In Los Angeles County, about 104,000 of more than 350,000 registered voters cast ballots by mail as of Monday.
State officials also required in-person voting options aimed at unregistered voters and others who can’t or won’t vote by mail. At the two sites in Ventura County, both in Simi, turnout was light with 213 people voting by 1:30 p.m. More than a half-dozen sites were set up in Los Angeles County.
Some people cast ballots from their vehicles after being given ballots by election workers in masks and gloves. Others used a computer touch-screen that was cleaned after every use.
Some observers portray the race as a preview of election battles to be decided in November. Tim Allison, CSU Channel Islands political scientist, thinks any message being sent has been altered by the pandemic.
“It’s more of a referendum of whether people are paying attention to politics with everything else going on in their lives,” he said. “People are trying to figure out how to home-school their children. They’re trying to figure out where their next paycheck is. … We’re in a very different scenario, a very different world.”
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/05/13/special-election-votes-tallied-in-key-race-katie-hills-seat/3122059001/
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