Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Jess Phoenix and the final results of the polls.
SCV residents went to the polls Tuesday to determine which candidates will square off on the November ballot for a host of races throughout the state of California.
25th Congressional District
Katie Hill came out on top of the three Democratic challengers to Congressman Steve Knight’s seat for the 25th Congressional District race this fall. Hill garnered 20.2 percent of the vote, beating Bryan Caforio’s third place at 18.3 percent. In early returns at press time as mail-in ballots were counted, Caforio held a slim lead in the race to challenge Congressman Steve Knight in, but by the time all ballots were in, Hill was the second place winner.
Knight led the vote at 52.8 percent. Democratic challenger Jess Phoenix received 6 percent of the vote.
Caforio’s campaign could not be reached for comment.
“It shows you this could be a close race,” Hill said earlier in the evening. “But less than one percent of the vote has been counted, so we aren’t terribly concerned.”
Phoenix said she was proud of the campaign she ran and was hopeful for the future.
“My goal was always to be a voice for science and evidence-based policy-making, and we’ve accomplished that,” she said. “As the only true grassroots campaign, we stretched every donation as far as possible and met thousands of phenomenal people along the way. I wish Katie Hill the best in the general election, and I’m hopeful that we can unite to replace Steve Knight in November.”
The three challengers to Knight’s seat have seen millions of dollars pour into the race, with lots of attention from national media and celebrities, as well. Caforio, Phoenix and Katie Hill, combined with Knight, together spent almost $4 million in campaign financing.
Hill outraised her opponents with $1.38 million as of May 2018. Knight came in second place with $1.23 million, with Caforio at $1 million. Phoenix raised $500,000 off individual donors only.
Hill said the momentum and energy of her campaign was incredible, with thousands of doors knocked on in a matter of days.
“Such a big part of the campaign has been mobilizing people,” she said. “It’s not about me—it’s about a movement. It’s about people who are ready for change…I think that’s something that is inspiring to people that people can buy into. That’s why I’ve been so transparent.”
Hill credits her transparency to the reason why she’s gained national outlets’ attention, such as Vice News, which did a two-part documentary series on her.
“I’m willing to let people in behind the scenes,” she said. “And, in fact, that’s a priority for me.”
Phoenix had a similar appeal to outside media. She boasts 64,600 followers on Twitter, more than any of her opponents. Celebrities such as Wil Wheaton and Patton Oswalt have endorsed the volcanologist, who was also recently interviewed by the New York Times for her science-based platform.
“It has been a completely surreal experience (campaigning), she said. “I’ve had people from China and Scotland messaging me saying they support me, and so many people locally that i don’t know in person coming up to me to say, ‘I voted for you.’ I’m so grateful, and I feel surrounded by people who care about the message.”
Caforio and Knight won the June 2016 primary, with Caforio garnering 29 percent of the vote and Knight winning 48.3 percent.
In the general election of November 2016, Knight won with 53 percent of the vote.
When asked Tuesday about his thoughts as the incumbent candidate, Knight emphasized his work in the House that he believes voters see.
“I think voters see what we’ve done for veterans, for small businesses,” he said. “I think they know we’ve been working hard.”
Knight said he was “very optimistic” about the upcoming general election, and his belief the race isn’t about money.
“Money’s always part of it, but we’ve been outraised many times,” he said. “I think we’ve put our head down and we’ve worked. That’s what we did. If you think it’s all about money, you’re in the wrong business.”
38th Assembly District
Christy Smith and Assemblyman Dante Acosta are facing off for control of the 38th Assembly District. As the only two candidates on the ballot, the pair will do a rematch of 2016 in November.
Smith beat Acosta in the 2016 primary with 44 percent of the vote, and Acosta receiving 36 percent. However, she lost the general election when Acosta received 53 percent of the vote.
This time around, Smith said she’s observed a ‘surge of activism’ in the Democratic party around the nation since 2016.
“In the 38th district, we have changed voter registration to the point where it is a toss-up race,” she said. “We have a number of new Democratic voters, and we have a growing number of no-party preference voters. That dynamic has considerable potential to move the seat in a different direction.”
Acosta, who said he is “not hyperpartisan” and has had extensive Democratic support for his bills, said he is proud to be running on his voting record from his time in the Assembly.
“Last time I was telling voters what I was planning on doing, but this time I have a record of doing it,” he said. “This time around, I’m hoping we can stick to the issues. That’s always what the voters have in mind. I’ll always continue to do what’s best for the 38th Assembly district and represent them in the best possible manner.”
36th Assembly District
Assemblyman Tom Lackey and former Assemblyman Steve Fox, who served from 2012-2014, are the only two contenders on the ballot for the 36th District. They will face off in November, their third consecutive rematch since 2014.
In 2016, Lackey won 48.2 percent of the vote and Fox won 29.6 percent during the primary.
Lackey then won that November with 56 percent, while Fox drew 44 percent.
Fox said he passed more legislation than Lackey while in office, despite serving a shorter tenure.
“This time around, he’s had more of a lack of record,” Fox said. “I did more in two years than he did in four. The facts on my end is I have results, while he doesn’t. While i’m a conservative Democrat, the question is, ‘do you want things done?’ If you do, I want your vote.”
Lackey thanked those who have supported him and said his campaign was “cautiously optimistic” about their chances in the general election.
“The person opposing me we’ve defeated before,” he said. “We work hard and we believe that is our recipe for success. So we continue to go with it.”