A former Navy combat pilot claimed victory Wednesday in the fight for an open US House seat north of Los Angeles, a win that would mark the first time in over two decades that a Republican captured a Democratic-held congressional district in California.
“I’m ready to go to work,” Republican Mike Garcia said. His Democratic rival, Christy Smith, congratulated Garcia, calling him the “likely victor”.
However, she said she expected to win in November, when the two meet again in a rematch for the full, two-year House term that begins in January. “This is only one step in this process,” she said in a statement.
Garcia, a political newcomer, had a 12-point edge over Smith in Tuesday’s special election for the swing 25th District. An unknown number of ballots remained uncounted. Los Angeles County, where most of them are located, was not expected to update its tally until Friday.
All voters received mailed ballots because of the coronavirus outbreak, though a sprinkling of polling places were available for those who wanted to vote in person.
The contest took on outsized importance as the only competitive House race in the country in the middle of the coronavirus crisis. It is seen nationally as a proxy vote on President Donald Trump’s leadership and a possible harbinger for November elections.
Trump, who lost the district that runs through a swath of suburbs and small ranches in 2016, urged voters to support the political newcomer Garcia, while former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other high-profile Democrats backed Smith.
Garcia’s win provides a jolt of encouragement for the state’s beleaguered GOP, which has been drifting towards obscurity in California for years.
The seat became vacant last year after the resignation of Democratic Representative Katie Hill, who stepped down after admitting to an affair with a campaign worker and the US House opened an ethics probe into an allegation that she was involved with a member of her congressional staff, which Hill denied.
Garcia appeared to benefit from enthusiasm among conservatives who saw a rare opportunity to seize a Democratic-held seat in California. The last time that happened was 1998.
With a national debate under way on mail-in voting, the race will also serve as a window into how the process works out, albeit on a small scale.
Trump’s GOP candidates also fared well in a closely watched Wisconsin election on Tuesday.
Tom Tiffany, a state senator, easily won a special election in a heavily conservative, rural Wisconsin district, cheering Republicans. His win over Democrat Tricia Zunker in northern Wisconsin’s 7th District comes in the state’s second election amid the coronavirus pandemic the past five weeks.
The win is in a district that Trump will need to once again win big if he hopes to again carry Wisconsin, a state he won by less than a point in 2016. Tiffany’s big victory also helps to erase the sting of a loss by a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice in last month’s election, a race that boosted Democrats’ confidence.
Source: News Agency