Acosta wins 38th Assembly race, Smith concedes

Dante Acosta. Dan Watson/The Signal

Republican Dante Acosta has beaten Democrat Christy Smith in their nasty race for the 38th Assembly District seat.

Smith phoned Acosta in the early hours Wednesday to concede the election.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Acosta received 71,058 votes, or 53.1 percent, while Smith garnered 62,871 votes, or 46.9 percent.

Acosta joined with other local Republican candidates at Robinson Ranch Golf Club at a standing-room-only gathering that quickly turned from white-knuckle anticipation to celebration.

“We ran a solid, issue-oriented campaign,” Acosta said.

Later, as he joined friends for some “decompression” over Grand Slams at the Denny’s restaurant on Sand Canyon Road, Acosta added, “People were not swayed by the negative campaigning. I think, from the top down, people saw through that.’’

He attributed his lead and apparent victory to “my conveying a positive message as to what we can do. … Now it’s time to move on and serve our community.”

Meanwhile, Smith and her backers gathered at Democratic headquarters on Lyons Avenue in Newhall, where the mood was considerably more subdued.

Around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Smith phoned Acosta.

“I just called Dante and congratulated him,” Smith told The Signal. “I wished him well.”

Smith also said that Tuesday’s string of Republican victories – from Donald Trump, on down the ticket – meant “there’s clearly a groundswell of a populist movement, and voters are seeming to find an affiliation with the Republican Party. We (Democrats) have some work to do.”

The 38th Assembly District winner will take the seat formerly held by Republican Scott Wilk, who was on Tuesday’s ballot seeking a seat in the state Senate. Wilk was leading in his race.

For Smith and Acosta, this was a contentious campaign in which they disagreed over issues, but also were just plain disagreeable with one another – each assailing the other’s character and fitness for office.

Smith fired the first shot in that area during a September debate, hinting Acosta had inflated his success as a financial adviser, as Acosta stressed his success in the private sector as a key reason he should be sent to Sacramento.

Smith directed voters to the broker-check page of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) website, which showed three “disclosure events” on Acosta, concerning client complaints. But two of the FINRA investigations were “denied,” while the third was settled with no acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

Things got even nastier last month, when Acosta, a sometime actor, accused Smith of disseminating “racist” ads against him, using an Acosta publicity shot to make him look like “a thug.”

Just days later, allegations of sexual harassment emerged against Acosta – accusations Acosta vehemently denies. The allegations came from a leaked letter in which a woman attached to the campaign of one of Acosta’s primary-election rivals claimed he had made unwanted advances against her and was inappropriate in texts and over the phone. The woman did not pursue her allegations beyond that letter, which was written to a personal acquaintance and leaked online.

Acosta has served on the Santa Clarita City Council since April 2014, currently as Mayor Pro Tem. He will have to leave that seat when he joins the Assembly, and the council will have to agree on a means to fill the vacancy.

Smith has served on the Newhall School Board since 2009, currently as board clerk and formerly as president. She said she is looking forward to continuing her work there – “after a few days of just relaxing and wearing blue jeans.”

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