By The Signal Editorial Board
If the early fundraising totals are any indication, it’s not a stretch to conclude that the Republican Party has already written off the 25th Congressional District and Rep. Katie Hill can start drafting her 2020 re-election speech.
What else can you conclude when Hill raised $1.34 million so far this election cycle, while her nearest challenger — Mike Garcia — raised just $250,000?
And of that $250,000, half of it came from a personal loan he made to his own campaign.
That’s not to say there’s no chance a Republican challenger could unseat Hill. But if the money sends a message, the message the Republicans are sending is one of concession.
Flash back to 2018. Hill, who was largely unknown to voters prior to her congressional run, mustered nationwide Democratic support to unseat Republican Steve Knight from what had been historically viewed as a “safe” district for the GOP.
To their credit, the Democrats recognized the demographics of the district were changing and it was ripe for the flipping, with the right candidate and the right support.
They found the right candidate, a young woman who brought new energy to the race, and threw a full-court press behind the effort to elevate Hill’s profile, and $7.3 million later — not even counting PAC money — the district flipped.
You can talk all you want about taking “big money” out of politics, and Hill does just that with no apparent sense of irony despite the fact that her campaign benefited from organized national fundraising and multiple millions in PAC money. This includes outside sources like Michael Bloomberg, who spent $4.5 million to elect Hill and, as far as we know, has never visited the Santa Clarita Valley and almost assuredly couldn’t pick it out on a map.
But the fact remains, the money matters — especially when the disparity is as wide as it is right now in the changing 25th District.
Now, the district is widely considered “purple” — not quite solid red, not quite solid blue. Depending on the candidates — and, in a given election, the money — the district could go either way.
With the benefit of incumbency and a high national profile as a leader of the Democratic freshman class, Hill must go into 2020 as more than a prohibitive favorite who could only be unseated by an equally charismatic and savvy candidate — with the right financial support.
And her challenger who’s raised the most money so far has loaned his campaign half the funding it’s raised. Not a good early sign for Republicans.
Mike Garcia, the former fighter pilot, so far is vastly outmatched financially, and the other Republican challengers are trailing by even wider margins. It’s like going into a dogfight against the latest stealth aircraft and you’re flying something with propellers.
There’s a long time to go before November 2020. But at this point, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Republicans are mailing this one in — or, at least, being outplayed by a Democratic Party that’s playing the campaign finance game better and harnessing the power of online fundraising to garner national “grass roots” support for a candidate in a flippable district.
Now, the Democrats are playing defense and it looks like their defense is equally as formidable as their offense was in 2018.
If the local GOP wants to see a fair fight for the 25th Congressional District seat in 2020, much work remains, and support from beyond the district is a must, at least under the current rules of the game.
Otherwise, November 2020 will be a cake walk for Katie Hill.