SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (CN) — In her bid to reclaim the 25th congressional district for Democrats, California lawmaker Christy Smith was neck-and-neck Friday with incumbent Republican Mike Garcia, according to updated election data.
Both Garcia and Smith, who currently represents Santa Clarita in the California Assembly, hold 50% of the vote and are separated by less than 270 votes.
Early results Wednesday put Smith in the lead to represent the district, which includes parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties and has historically elected moderate Republicans.
Garcia, a former Navy pilot and political newcomer, won a special election this past May to fill a congressional seat left vacant by Democrat Katie Hill who resigned in 2019 following an ethics probe of her relationship with a campaign aide.
Hill defeated Republican Steve Knight in a closely watched 2018 election, part of the “blue wave” that secured Democrats’ control of the House.
Smith also flipped a seat that year from red to blue: California’s 38th Assembly District, which covers nearly 60% of the 25th Congressional District.
Garcia, a former executive at defense-systems company Raytheon, will serve in the House until January while the candidate who wins the November general election will serve the two-year term beginning next year.
In a video posted to Twitter on Thursday, Garcia urged his supporters to track their ballots online as officials continued their vote count.
“Tell your friends, family and neighbors to get out there and make sure their voices are being counted,” Garcia says in the short video.
The incumbent rode a wave of support from the state and national Republican party to secure victory in the special election, which he said in an interview this past February was a sign voters were fed up with repeated tax increases enacted by Smith and other California Democratic leaders.
Garcia said his run for office was inspired by a “second calling to serve” after seeing Hill champion pro-immigrant policies and proposals that would raise taxes.
Since taking office, Garcia has established a voting record aligned with President Donald Trump and House Republicans on all issues.
In her campaign, Smith criticized Garcia’s alignment with Trump even after the president downplayed the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak before it swelled into a global pandemic.
Smith is backed by prominent California Democrats and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
In support of her campaign ahead of the March primary, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board said in Feb. 12 endorsement that Smith is the kind of level-headed, policy-focused leader the district needs at this moment.
“Smith is a centrist, pragmatic Democrat who in just a year in the Legislature has distinguished herself as an elected official more interested in pushing good policy than playing politics, something we’d like to see more often in Congress,” the board said.
In virtual press conference Tuesday evening, Smith said her campaign is at an advantage due to the larger number of registered Democrats in the district and the increased use of vote-by-mail ballots.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s victory over Trump in the district in the 2016 election should also signal increased voter turnout in favor of Democrats, Smith said.
Smith told reporters her focus remains on pushing for health care reforms at the national level and on increasing support for district residents and businesses struggling during the pandemic. She said her campaign will wait patiently for election officials to receive and process ballots.
California election officials said Thursday evening more than 4.5 million ballots remain unprocessed and uncounted.
The vast majority, just over 4 million, are mail-in ballots, which can be counted if received no later than 17 days after the election provided they were postmarked on or before Nov. 3.
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