Last week, Republican businessman and former fighter pilot Mike Garcia, 44, defeated Democratic California Assemblywoman Christy Smith, 51, by almost ten points in California’s 25 Congressional District.
Garcia’s victory marks the first time Republicans in California flipped a seat held by a Democrat since 1998. The seat was vacated when Congresswoman Katie Hill, D-Calif, resigned on November 3, 2019, after a sex scandal with one of her staffers.
Garcia won 95,088 votes (54.9 percent) to Smith’s 78,234 (45.1 percent).
What does this mean for November?
First, this district was safely held by Republicans from 1993 to 2018 when Hill defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Steven Knight, R-Calif, in a Democratic wave election that saw Democrats retake the U.S. House. However, in presidential elections, the district voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, Barack Obama in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012, and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Second, this district is suburban. It includes Northern Los Angeles County, including Palmdale and Santa Clarita, northeastern Ventura County, including Simi Valley. Palmdale, as well as, Lancaster are bedroom communities for Edwards Air Force Base, so many veterans and military personnel are in the district.
This district is symbolic of the potential suburban swing district where Democrats saw success in 2018. Does this mean suburban voters will swing back toward Republicans?
It is uncertain since special elections always have low turnout, even with every voter in the district receiving a mail-in ballot due to COVID-19, there were still fewer votes than in the 2018 election (180,000 last week compared to over 245,000 in 2018).
However, Republicans sent in 10,000 more mail-in ballots than Democrats even though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district. Also, in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won at the top of the ballot in 2016, Knight, a Republican, won by over 16,000 votes.
So, Republicans have reason to be optimistic about November in suburban districts where they lost seats. I wouldn’t bank on it being enough to win back the House.