Election Day has finally passed, but a winner for the highly contested 25th Congressional District is far from official amid an unprecedented amount of mail-in voting.
Early returns Tuesday showed Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, led over Republican Rep. Mike Garcia in the early counts of mail-in ballots, with an unknown number of ballots remaining to be counted.
As of 10 p.m. and 308 of 311 precincts reporting, Smith led with 51.7% of the vote, or 123,441 votes over Garcia at 48.3% (115,503), according to the California Secretary of State’s preliminary results.
With no conciliatory concession speeches expected Tuesday night, the candidates stayed put as incoming vote tallies became readily available.
On Tuesday, Smith said she did not expect to see final results, although she would like to see them.
“It certainly would be nice if it would but, again, I am more than willing to be patient given the stakes,” said Smith, adding she would host Zoom events with supporters and conclude her night alongside her family.
Garcia was unavailable for comment and neither he nor his campaign had issued a public statement as of press time.
The 25th District, which includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Simi valleys, has had three representatives and could possibly see its fourth in just the past two years following the sudden resignation of former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill last year. She won in 2018 against former GOP Rep. Steve Knight, ultimately flipping the longstanding red district blue that year.
After serving just more than 300 days in office, Hill’s resignation reopened the race to varied contenders, including former Donald Trump aide George Papadopoulos and Cenk Uygur, a Democratic media personality running the progressive talk show “The Young Turks.”
It was Garcia, the former Navy pilot and Raytheon executive, and Smith, who has represented the 38th Assembly District after serving on the Newhall School District board, who topped the voting charts in the March primary. Garcia won the May special election to complete the remainder of Hill’s term.
Garcia won in May by nine points with just more than 54% of the vote. He would then join the House in mid-May and was appointed to House committees such as Homeland Security, Transportation and Space.
Smith attributed her loss at the time to a lower voter turnout but with a presidential race on the ballot this month, which typically sees higher voter participation, there’s now an advantage, she said Tuesday during a Zoom news conference.
Over the past few months, the opponents, while in office, faced an unprecedented disruption in campaigning and turned to remote operations by holding at-home phone banking and virtual town halls and debates on topics ranging from COVID-19 to Assembly Bill 5.
The pandemic did not stop their momentum when it came to fundraising, however. Garcia reported raising more than $7.6 million throughout his campaign after bringing in $3.18 million during the third quarter, while Smith raised a total of $4.8 million following her count of $1.34 million during the same time period.