GOP lawmaker Mike Garcia seeks to cement hold on California House seat

Republican Rep. Mike Garcia and Democratic State Assemblywoman Christy Smith face off again in November after Garcia won a special election in May to represent California’s 25th Congressional District.

The seat was prematurely vacated by former Rep. Katie Hill, a freshman Democrat, who resigned from office on Nov. 3 after nude photos of her were posted online with stories describing her relationship with a young female campaign staffer and an alleged relationship with a congressional staffer. Hill disputed the latter claim.

One month before the special election, the Cook Political Report changed the district’s rating from “Lean Democratic” to “Toss Up.”

Garcia, the son of a Mexican immigrant, graduated from the United States Naval Academy after being nominated by then-Rep. Buck McKeon, a Republican who previously represented the district. Garcia became the first Republican to pick up a House seat in California since 1998. He flew combat missions in Iraq and later served for 10 years as an executive on the board at Raytheon.

Smith is a former official at the California Department of Education. She climbed through the ranks of the department and raised $2 million in 2018 to win her state Assembly seat against a Republican incumbent, but her efforts against Garcia nearly two years later did not prevail when Garcia won by a 12-point margin.

Smith’s campaign took a hit during the special election when she slammed Garcia’s military service on a Zoom call with supporters. She later apologized for her comments.

Republicans previously held the 25th District, which spans northern Los Angeles County and part of neighboring Ventura County, for over two decades, mainly by McKeon and for two terms thereafter by his Republican successor, Steve Knight. However, in 2018 Knight lost by a 7-point margin to Hill, a first-time candidate who capitalized on the Democratic “blue wave” of the 2018 midterm elections.

House Republicans need to gain about 17 seats to reclaim the House majority they lost two years ago. Garcia winning reelection is a key part of that plan. The seat also has a certain emotional resonance because it borders on that of the Bakersfield-based district held by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, one of the most conservative parts of otherwise liberal California.

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