Former California Assemblywoman Christy Smith hopes the third time will be the charm.
In May 2020, she lost to Republican Mike Garcia in a special election to fill the remainder of Congresswoman Katie Hill’s term. She lost to Garcia again that November by just 333 votes. Now she’s at it again, as the Democratic nominee in the redrawn 27th Congressional District, which encompasses Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley in Northern Los Angeles County and has significantly more Democrats than when Garcia was first elected.
She says Garcia’s votes against certifying election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania factored into her decision.
“The stakes are just too high,” Smith told Spectrum News during an interview between campaign events.
“The decisions he [Garcia] made on January 6 which were not only counter to where the politics and the values of this district are, but the values of our country,” she added. “Every vote subsequent to that, he's taken against the best interests of the community he represents have reinforced to me how important it is that he's no longer in that seat.”
Garcia, a retired fighter pilot, is now considered one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the House. He stands by his votes not to accept some election results, and his vote against impeaching President Donald Trump for his actions leading up to and during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, another issue Smith has been seizing on in her campaign.
“Do I regret what, not not impeaching a president after no due process, no hearings, and no evidence brought forward? In the span of 24 hours, the Democrats decided to impeach a president and they brought it to a vote on the floor. It was a violation of due process, a violation of the Constitution,” Garcia said. “We've got to protect people even when we don't like them, even people we don't like deserve constitutional rights.”
He dismisses Smith’s focus on his certification votes, his opposition to Impeachment and his support of Trump.
“I encourage my opponent to keep talking about these issues, because what we're seeing is that the average American nationwide, and especially here in our congressional 27th district, doesn't care about the issues that she's talking about.”
Smith, like many Democrats this year, also focuses on abortion rights, including the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe vs. Wade. She shared her own story of a difficult pregnancy that almost took her life, which she has been sharing on the campaign trail and most recently in a new television ad.“I nearly died giving birth to my first daughter, and if I had not had the choice, if my physicians had not had the choice to deliver her early to save my life, I might not be here running for Congress today,” explained Smith. “Now I am the mom of two young adult women who now have fewer protections than I've had for my whole adult lifetime. So it's time for us to push back on the notion that it's okay for a small fraction of people to make decisions for half the population.”
Garcia, on the other hand, is a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, which “declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual comes into being.”
In an interview with Spectrum News, Garcia downplayed his opposition to abortion rights.
“Where I'm at on it is irrelevant. What the Supreme Court just ruled with the Dobbs ruling is that this is a state right issue. Abortion will be on the ballot in November and if someone is extremely pro-life or adamant about having abortion options, they get to vote on Prop One in November,” he said, referring to California voters option to vote on a ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution.
However, he is a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, which “declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual comes into being.”
And some members of Congress, notably Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have proposed legislation to impose limits on abortion nationwide. Asked if he would support national restrictions or a nationwide ban on abortions, he said, “I’d have to see where the people are, where the negotiations go. I don’t think a federal abortion ban straight out with zero time limit has any chance of getting through a federal legislative body, whether it’s the Senate or the House.”
“I don't think there’s even a thing to support there.”
Garcia says economic issues would be his priority if Republicans retake control of the House.
“Getting back to being fiscally responsible, spending our money in a manner that's commensurate with our budgets and not spending us into oblivion, and not driving inflation up, higher and higher like we're seeing in the last year or so,” said Garcia. “We've got to get back to controlled spending, balanced budgets, lowering taxes, incentivizing businesses to grow, incentivizing, you know, folks to continue to be able to save rather than going backwards like we are right now.”
For Smith, if elected, she wants to tackle voting rights on day one.
“That means bringing back to the floor HR1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act so that we can ensure voting freedom for everyone for generations to come,” said Smith. “Then we're going to continue to tackle challenges like [the] climate challenge, our unhoused neighbors and housing, the real issues that impact people's daily lives and improving their standard of living. And we'll go on from there.”
The 27th District became more Democratic with the loss of the Simi Valley in redistricting.
Sara Sadhwani, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College and a member of the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission, says the district looks quite different not just politically, but also demographically
“Santa Clarita was a city that underwent pretty significant population growth over the last 10 years. It's becoming a bigger kind of suburban area,” Sadhwani explained. “The Antelope Valley has growing black and Latino communities and neighborhoods.”
“Garcia has under his belt, the incumbency and we know that incumbents tend to do well [because] they have that name recognition, they have presumably developed a trust amongst some of the voters,” said Sadhwani. “His seat did become more blue by losing Simi Valley and so this is a real opportunity for Christy Smith to step in and mobilize a new Democratic base and the district.”
But Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, sees Garcia’s political decisions as his Achilles heel, not the redistricting of his old seat.
“Garcia does not have a particularly moderate voting record, or at least not a voting record that sort of well reflects where his district is, you know, it's a double digit Biden seat,” explained Kondik.
“There aren't that many truly vulnerable Republican House incumbents out there. But he might be at the top of the list in terms of the most vulnerable Republican Housing Conference.”