25th Congressional District race too close to call, but local Republicans optimisticTerry Nguyen November 7, 2018 0 COMMENTS
In the early hours of Nov. 7, Democratic candidate Katie Hill leads by about one percentage point in the polls to Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), with 56 percent of precincts reporting. The 25th Congressional District race was too close to call on Tuesday since polls closed at 8 p.m. All Tuesday evening, Hill and Knight were deadlocked in the polls, with under 40 percent of precincts reporting.
Voters who attended the Santa Clarita Valley Republicans’ watch party were hopeful for Knight’s success; some had canvassed for him and were convinced of the district’s solidly conservative stance. The district leans 0.1 point more Republican than the nation overall, but Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the region by a six point margin.
“I feel like [the Republicans] can hold on to the seat,” said Donna Fonseca, a 24-year resident of the valley who actively campaigned for Knight and current Assemblyman Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita). “I was out on Friday waving campaign signs for [Knight], and people were driving by honking and everything.”
Like many Republicans, Fonseca believed in Knight’s political experience — his years in the California State Assembly and State Senate brought credibility with his conservative views.
Hill lacks the maturity and the wisdom that Knight holds, according to city councilman Bill Miranda, who was also up for reelection on Tuesday.
“Steve Knight has the experience and wisdom … You can’t do all those things and not gather an amount of wisdom that you need when it comes to making decisions,” Miranda said. “I think that he’s great; he’s the most qualified candidate by far, and I hope he wins.”
The congressman briefly attended up to the Republicans’ watch party, showing up in a red track jacket and a red baseball cap with “Steve” embroidered on the back. For a politician almost always seen in business professional, his casual attire made him unrecognizable among the party’s attendees, most of which donned red.
Joe Messina, a candidate running for Hart School Board, acknowledged that the congressional race will be a tight one.
“I still believe [Knight] is going to win, but we [Republicans] were never going to call it a landslide,” Messina said. “Some people said it was going to be a blue wave, a red wave, a green wave — whatever — but locally, I’ve always said the same thing. I think he’ll take it by 3 or 4 percent ultimately.”
Messina attributes the candidates’ proximity in the polls to the funding Hill’s campaign has benefited from. About a week before the midterms, a super PAC backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg had invested $4.5 million into ads that support Hill, the Associated Press reported.
The 25th Congressional District race, alongside several other California races, was forecasted to be crucial in helping the Democrats regain the majority in the House of Representatives. However, the party announced its control of the House before California’s congressional results were fully counted.
Democrats have prioritized health care in the national party’s messaging leading up to the midterms.
Knight’s seat was deemed vulnerable since he voted along party lines to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017, garnering backlash from constituents. He has sought to redeem himself over the course of his campaign, issuing support for the existing healthcare system and introducing a bill to protect pre-existing conditions, even with his limited time in Congress.
“The voters, in my opinion, have latched onto the dirty politics, such as attacking Rep. Knight on issues of social security and what he had said before,” said Ed Porter, a Republican and candidate for the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District governing board.
The closeness of the race concerned Porter, but he believes the partisanship in Santa Clarita will soon come to pass.
“The partisan stuff is mostly during the campaign, and I think we’ll have to get down to business very quickly,” he said. “Whoever ends up getting on, we have very competent people, and it will all boil down.”
Terry Nguyen is a reporter writing about policy and people in the Los Angeles area. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Lily and Brit+Co.