SANTA CLARITA (CNS) - Tuesday is the deadline to submit ballots in the mainly mail-in special election to fill the Santa Clarita Valley congressional seat formerly held by Katie Hill, a race that has gained national attention in recent days thanks to online comments by President Donald Trump.
Santa Clarita Assemblywoman Christy Smith is trying to become the second consecutive Democrat to win what had been a seat long held by Republicans until Hill's 2018 victory over then-Rep. Steve Knight. Smith is facing Republican aerospace executive Mike Garcia.
Smith finished first in the March 3 primary in the 25th Congressional District with 36.2% of the vote while Garcia was second with 25.4%. Knight finished third with 17.2%.
There will be nine vote centers open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, seven in Los Angeles County, including at the Lancaster National Soccer Center, the addition of which late Friday drew the ire of Trump.
“Governor GavinNewsom of California won't let restaurants, beaches and stores open, but he installs a voting both system in a highly Democrat area (supposed to be mail in ballots only) because our great candidate, MikeGarcia2020, is winning by a lot. CA25 Rigged Election!” Trump tweeted Saturday.
The request to add a vote center came from Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris “late in the week and thanks to the city's assistance the RR/CC was able to quickly accommodate the additional vote center,” according to Mike Sanchez, the public information officer for the Los Angeles County Registrar- Recorder/County Clerk.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order March 20 requiring that all voters in the district receive a vote-by-mail ballot in an effort to protect public health and safety during the coronavirus outbreak.
Newsom had no connection to the addition of the voting center in Lancaster. The election was never a mail-in only election.
Parris is a Republican who has endorsed Garcia.
Smith, who will turn 51 on Friday, was elected to the Assembly in 2018 after serving two terms on the governing board of the Newhall School District. She began her career in public service as analyst with the U.S. Department of Education.
“I am running this race making voters a very simple and straight forward promise, that if they elect me to serve them in Congress, I will work day in and day out to find solutions to the pressing problems we now all face like access to affordable health care, and real economic relief for families and local businesses, and I will never get caught up in the politics that so often paralyze our system,” Smith told City News Service.
Smith has lived in Santa Clarita for 39 years, graduating from Hart High School, then attending College of the Canyons and receiving a bachelor's degree from UCLA.
Garcia is a graduate of Saugus High School and the U.S. Naval Academy. He was a Navy fighter pilot during the Iraq War and became an executive with the aerospace firm Raytheon Co.
“I am running for office because taxes in California are out of control,” Garcia told City News Service. “Southern Californians simply cannot afford more taxes and we cannot take liberal Sacramento policies to Washington.”
Garcia said his experience in the aerospace industry “along with my military credentials makes me uniquely qualified to tackle the national security issues this nation is facing.”
Both candidates have presidential support. Trump tweeted his endorsement of Garcia April 20, tweeting that the Republican “will be a tremendous fighter for the U.S. and the State of California.”
“An Annapolis graduate, he served our Country as a highly decorated Navy Fighter Pilot and will be a great Congressman (#CA25),” Trump tweeted. “Loves our Military, and Vets...”
Trump also wrote two tweets Monday in support of Garcia.
Former President Barack Obama recorded a robocall on Smith's behalf.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced her endorsement of Garcia Monday, saying in a statement released by the campaign, “as a combat veteran, Mike and his family understand the true meaning of sacrifice and service. A Navy fighter pilot, who has seen our national security threats firsthand, he will do what it takes to keep our country safe. And, as a small businessman, he understands the value of a dollar. Mike Garcia is exactly what our country needs.”
The coronavirus outbreak has changed the way both candidates campaigned, switching from traditional in-person campaigning to online and telephonic efforts.
Smith said her campaign utilized “a large scale virtual phone banking effort” in place of door-to-door campaigning.
“I am a candidate who loves to have person to person conversations,” Smith said. “When I ran for Assembly I would knock on doors to introduce myself to voters, answer questions, and ask for their support. That is obviously no longer an option and we have had to transition to conversations over the phone and via video chat."
The Garcia campaign has held five virtual town halls, according to campaign's Lance Trover.
The 25th Congressional District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, and portions of the northern San Fernando Valley, Antelope Valley and eastern Ventura County.
Hill announced her resignation Oct. 27 and it became effective Nov. 3, following the release of salacious photos online and allegations of an extramarital affair with a staff member.
The winner of Tuesday's election will serve out the balance of Hill's term. Garcia and Smith will square off again in the November election for the chance to serve a full two-year term.