Incumbent Republican Steve Knight was solidly ahead in his bid to win a second term in the U.S. House of Representatives as he battled Democratic challenger Bryan Caforio in their contentious race for the 25th District seat, according to early-morning Wednesday vote counting.
With about 63 percent of the precincts reporting, Knight had 61,840 votes, or 54.3 percent, compared to Caforio’s 52,024, or 45.7 percent, as of around 1:30 a.m.
While Hillary Clinton appeared to have won California’s 55 electoral votes in the presidential election, Knight joined with several other Republican candidates at the Robinson Ranch Golf Club in Santa Clarita for what was looking more and more like a GOP romp on the local level.
Besides Knight, Republican Dante Acosta was winning his race for the 38th District Assembly seat, and Scott Wilk led in the 21st state Senate District race.
“The numbers look good right now, but we’re still watching and waiting,’’ an upbeat Knight said late Tuesday night.
He acknowledged this had been “an ugly campaign,” and added, “It’s not one I’m happy to be involved with — hopefully we don’t have anything like that again.’’
“Hopefully, in the future, it can just be two folks bringing forward ideas.
“Hopefully, we move on with a new president.’’
Knight called Donald Trump’s White House victory “a little bit of a referendum on the election process, to bring somebody in from the outside.’’
Knight also said he hopes the new commander-in-chief “will not just unite the party, but unite the entire country.”
“People want more opportunities, a better economy, a strong defense … He has a lot of work to do.’’
Meanwhile, Caforio’s team gathered at the Pocock Brewery in Santa Clarita, where Caforio himself still held out hope that the numbers would turn in his favor as more votes were counted.
“Right now we’re excited about where things stand,’’ Caforio said around midnight. “They don’t appear to have counted most of the votes (that were cast) today, and we’ve been hearing good things anecdotally from the precincts. …
“It’s just the absentee ballots (reflected in the early vote counting),” he added. “We want to make sure everybody’s voice has been heard.’’
As to the nasty nature of the campaign, Caforio said, “It’s unfortunate whenever campaigns stop being about substantive issues. Unfortunately, there was no substantive discussion on the other side.’’
On Trump’s victory, Caforio said, “I’m obviously disappointed. Donald Trump has run one of the most misogynistic, most bigoted campaigns in history.’’
The Knight-Caforio race was one of the most-watched, and most-contested, battles in California.
Boosted by big money from their state party, Democrats targeted the one-term incumbent Knight as vulnerable — and swamped voters with a steady stream of negative ads depicting Knight as callous toward women (for his pro-life stance) and toward seniors (Knight once said, “Social Security was a bad idea” – a quote he has since backed away from).
Democrats also went to great lengths to link Knight to Trump — though Knight did not endorse the GOP presidential candidate, and in fact criticized Trump after Trump’s crude comments about women went viral.
Republicans, meanwhile, depicted Caforio as a carpetbagging “Beverly Hills lawyer” who only moved into the 25th Congressional District recently in order to run for the House. The GOP also stressed Knight’s long roots in the area.
Caforio, in general calling for wealthier Americans to carry a greater tax load, opposed the cap on Social Security payroll taxes, and supported allowing the government “to negotiate drug prices with drug manufacturers” under various federal health programs.
Knight, meanwhile, called Social Security “extremely important,” but stressed reform is needed. He said no changes should affect people who are retired or close to retiring.
Knight, of Palmdale, is a former LAPD officer who was born at Edwards Air Force Base. He served in the U.S. Army and formerly was a member of the state Senate and Assembly.
Caforio, who lives in Santa Clarita, is a corporate attorney.
Returns reported in this story are as of 1:30 a.m. DST on Wednesday.
Go to The Signal’s online Election Tracker for continuously updated results as they are reported: