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Santa Clarita Democrat says she will challenge Rep. Stephen Knight

Santa Clarita Democrat says she will challenge Rep. Stephen Knight
Small business owner Maria Gutzeit, a Democrat, says she will challenge Rep. Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) in next year's election. (Photo courtesy of Gutzeit campaign)

Santa Clarita business owner and local water board member Maria Gutzeit said Thursday that she will challenge Rep. Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) in next year's election.

"As a small-business owner, workiing mom and community leader, I understand the challenges facing Southern California families," Gutzeit said in a statement announcing her candidacy.

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"Washington politicians have lost their way and don't seem to understand how their constant partisan bickering hurts real people back here at home," Gutzeit said, adding, "We deserve an advocate that will put the needs of our community first."

Gutzeit, 47, is a chemical engineer and owner of an environmental compliance company.  She is an elected member of the Newhall County Water District.  Active in several community organizations, she ran unsuccessfully for the Santa Clarita City Council in 2008 and 2014.

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The National Republican Congressional Committee was quick to attack Gutzeit and quoted a 2004 Los Angeles Times story in which critics suggested she had maintained high water rates and attempted to slow development.

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"After badly losing twice in her bids for a seat on the Santa Clarita City Council, failed candidates Maria Gutzeit is now trying her hand at a run for Congress," GOP committee spokesman Zach Hunter said in a statement.

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Gutzeit becomes the second Democrat to throw her hat into the ring against Knight, who is serving his first term in a changing district.

Lou Vince, a Los Angeles Police Department lieutenant and elected member of the Agua Dulce Town Council, announced his candidacy last week.

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Registration in the 25th Congressional District, in northern Los Angeles County, is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans in this former GOP stronghold.  Voters still tend to choose Republican candidates, albeit narrowly.

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Democrats have been eyeing the district and believe that Knight is vulnerable, in part because of his lackluster fundraising to date.

Follow @jeanmerl for the latest in Southern California politics news.

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