Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Saugus, has won a fresh term in Congress as the representative of northern Los Angeles County’s 25th Congressional District after a turbulent campaign that ended in a neck-and-neck race. Challenger Christy Smith conceded the election on Monday, Nov. 30.
Garcia won by a razor-thin 333 votes in a skirmish that went right down to the last day of canvassing by the registrar’s offices in L.A. and Ventura counties.
The L.A. County Registrar officially certified the county election on Monday evening, including its portion of the 25th district, which straddles the two counties. A total of 4,338,191 ballots were processed in all county races, and counted, with a huge turnout: 75.98% of eligible voters casting ballots in the county.
Next week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to declare the election official.
“After four weeks of canvassing, every vote has been counted,” Garcia said in a statement. “Both Los Angeles County and Ventura County have officially certified the race today and have declared me the victor. I am once again honored to represent CA-25 during this pivotal time in our country’s history.”
The tally was 169,638 votes for Garcia and169,305 for Smith, according to a tabulation of results from the Ventura County Registrar and Los Angeles County Registrar.
Garcia acknowledged just how challenging it was to take on opponent Smith, who was not willing to concede as the vote count tallies when back and forth for weeks after the Nov. 3 election.
But on Monday night, the end came with Smith, the former Assemblywoman in the overlapping 38th state Assembly District, conceding that her campaign could not close the gap.
“This is not the end result we fought for, but I am proud of the strong, grassroots campaign we ran,” she said.
Smith said in recent weeks, the campaign’s attorneys reviewed the count of ballots and campaign volunteers pressed hard to “cure” hundreds of votes to make sure the registrar’s offices counted every vote.
“We exhausted every possible option, and did everything within our power to ensure that every voice in this election was heard. Nonetheless, we came up short,” she said.
The notably “purple” district has been trending Democrat in recent years. But its strong conservative roots were enough for many to give the nod to Garcia.
The political divide in the district did not appear to elude Garcia on Monday.
“My focus is on representing all constituents in CA-25,” he said. “In the short term, this means pushing to get federal relief to those who are most impacted by COVID (individuals and small businesses).”
Monday’s results bring to an end a tumultuous race that began more than a year ago, when Garcia — a severe underdog — was gearing up to run against then Congresswoman Katie Hill, a rising star who in 2018 had ousted former Congressman Steve Knight to flip the longtime GOP post.
But Hill resigned in October 2019, after the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into allegations that she had inappropriate relationships with a male congressional staffer. Hill acknowledged having a sexual relationship with a female campaign staffer while running for Congress.
Garcia, a former Raytheon executive and Navy fighter pilot, stayed in the race, joined by several Republicans — including Knight and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos. Instead of running against Hill in the primary, they’d be running to fill out Hill’s term and then run again in November to earn a fresh term.
Smith, a rising Democrat star who also had flipped the overlapping state Assembly seat in 2018, also jumped in.
For months, she was the leading contender. She won the March primary, with Garcia filling out the top two slots for a special election in May.
Then came COVID-19, changing the whole nature of campaigning.
The race nonetheless snared national headlines, with President Donald Trump endorsing Garcia and slamming the decision to add last-minute in-person voting centers in the district. Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama endorsed Smith.
By May 12, the day of the special election, it was a toss-up. Garcia won the special election, driven by a flood of mail-in ballot votes.
But the two didn’t have much time in the aftermath of the May special election. They had to gear up for November.
But their platforms did not stray, save for the layer of COVID-19-era politics that added a whole new dynamic, with the pair split over the effectiveness of the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic.