While it may take several days for the declaration of an official winner, early mail-in results Tuesday showed Republican Mike Garcia with a commanding lead against Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, in California’s 25th Congressional District special election.
The race will choose who will serve out the remaining eight months in the vacated House seat after former Rep. Katie Hill stepped down last year due to allegations about her personal life that led to a House Ethics Committee investigation.
Both will face off once again in November for the new term after the unexpired term concludes on Jan. 3.
Garcia, a former fighter pilot, led with 55.9% of the vote, or 78,701 votes, according to 100% precinct reporting as of 9 p.m. by the California Secretary of State. Smith received 44.1% (62,054 votes).
With a predominately mail-in election, a winner is not expected to emerge for days to come because many ballots will go uncounted by the end of Tuesday as Los Angeles County is expected to process additional vote-by-mail ballots that were received up until Friday and Ventura County is expected to report in-person and drop-off ballots cast Tuesday until Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Upon seeing early results, Garcia said during a call with supporters and former California leaders, including Gov. Pete Wilson and Reps. Elton Gallegly and Howard “Buck” McKeon, that he would not declare victory until Wednesday night but was happy with the numbers.
“We’re having this event today as a precursor to tomorrow night’s major events, as we get more data but the data, folks, is looking extremely encouraging. And I’m extremely humbled by this by this turnout. I’m proud of the results so far,” he said.
In a prepared statement two hours after polls closed, Smith said the outcome of the races remained too early to call. Her statement read:
“With so much at stake in this election for families across this district, from access to quality health care, to putting the needs of the middle class at the center of future economic relief packages passed in Congress, it is critical that every ballot cast is counted and the voice of every CA-25 voter is heard.”
Tuesday’s tally depicted a turnaround from the March primary election results, where Smith led with more than 30% of the vote and Garcia with 21% in a pool against 12 other candidates.
If Garcia’s lead is consistent, he could flip the House seat from blue to red, marking the first flip from a GOP candidate in the state seat since 1998.
The swing-district race has garnered national attention and high-profile endorsements, with former President Barack Obama voicing support for Smith and President Donald Trump for Garcia. Trump called the election on Saturday via social media a “rigged” one after a new vote center opened in a heavily Democratic Lancaster area. Republicans argued that the reopening was motivated by partisan politics.
Voters had until 8 p.m. to vote in person at one of the nine vote centers available across the 25th district, with two locations in the Santa Clarita Valley set up at the Castaic Regional Sports Complex and College of the Canyons. There were also 22 vote-by-mail drop boxes.
While voters had in-person options, the election was largely conducted through a vote-by-mail system in an effort to protect public safety due to the coronavirus pandemic. With masks and gloves on, some voted from their cars and others cast their vote via Los Angeles County’s new electronic voting kiosks, which poll workers were seen sanitizing after each use.