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Race to replace Katie Hill in Congress appears headed to a runoff

Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith is introduced during an election night celebration
Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith is introduced during an election night celebration at her headquarters in Stevenson Ranch.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith of Santa Clarita and Republican defense contractor Mike Garcia were in a tight race Tuesday night to succeed Rep. Katie Hill in one of California’s most competitive congressional districts, according to partial election returns.

Former Rep. Steve Knight, the Republican who was ousted in 2018 by Hill, a Democrat, was running third and on the verge of losing his shot at recapturing his seat representing the northern suburbs of Los Angeles.

The primary appeared likely to yield two runoffs between Smith and Garcia, a former Navy pilot — one in May to fill Hill’s seat for the rest of the year and another in November for the full two-year term that starts in January.

Trailing far behind were Cenk Uygur, host of the liberal talk show “The Young Turks”; George Papadopoulos, a 2016 Trump campaign advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia scandal; and more than a half dozen others.

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Smith was the candidate favored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other Democratic luminaries, and Knight was backed by the House Republican leadership.

The 25th Congressional District covers Simi Valley, Porter Ranch, Santa Clarita, Palmdale and part of Lancaster.

A former Republican stronghold, it has become a toss-up in recent years as the population has grown and diversified, due largely to an influx of people seeking affordable housing on the far outskirts of L.A.

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Hill stepped down in November amid accusations that she’d had affairs with congressional and campaign staff members. The conservative RedState website and a British tabloid published nude photos of Hill, who said she feared the “appalling invasion” of privacy would worsen if she remained in Congress.

Hill’s downfall came a year after she unseated Knight in the 2018 midterm election that gave Democrats control of the House in a nationwide suburban revolt against President Trump and his Republicans allies in Congress.

Hill was one of seven Democrats to capture seats previously held by Republicans in California. At least three of the others face tough fights in November to retain their seats.

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In the Central Valley’s 21st Congressional District, Rep. T.J. Cox was running far behind Republican David Valadao — the Republican he unseated in 2018 — in early returns. In California congressional races, the candidates who finish first and second in the primary face off in the November general election regardless of party.

Republican David Valadao and Democratic Rep. T.J. Cox
Republican David Valadao, left, is trying to recapture the Central Valley congressional seat that he lost in 2018 to Democratic Rep. T.J. Cox, right.
(Left: Associated Press / Right: T.J. Cox)

In Orange County, Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda of Laguna Beach was in a tight primary race in the 48th Congressional District against a well-funded Republican, Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel. They will compete in a November runoff.

And in the 39th Congressional District, another Democratic freshman, Rep. Gil Cisneros of Yorba Linda, was finishing well behind Republican Young Kim, the former state assemblywoman he narrowly defeated in 2018. They, too, will face off in November.

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Republican Young Kim, left, is running for the House seat that she lost in 2018 to Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros of Yorba Linda, who is seeking a second term.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press; Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In a state that has turned strongly against the GOP over the last couple decades, Republicans now hold just six of the state’s 53 House seats. They won seven in 2018, but former GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter resigned in January after pleading guilty to a felony in a campaign money scandal.

Hunter’s seat in the Republican-leaning 50th Congressional District, straddling San Diego and Riverside counties, will be vacant until voters choose his successor in November; his resignation came too late for an election to complete his term to be placed on the March 3 ballot.

The best-known Republican vying Tuesday to replace Hunter was former Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista. In the initial primary results, Issa was running behind Ammar Campa-Najjar, the Democrat who lost to Hunter in 2018 even as the congressman was under indictment. Issa was battling fellow Republican Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego city councilman, to reach the general election contest against Campa-Najjar.

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The runoff to replace Hill for the rest of the year is scheduled to take place May 12. The one for the two-year term starting in January will be on Nov. 3, the day of the presidential election.

On the biggest day of the Democratic presidential primary calendar, 14 states — from Maine to California — held primaries on Super Tuesday. There were1,357 delegates at stake, just over a third of the votes at this summer’s nominating convention.The balloting shaped up as a battle between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.Former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg dropped out Wednesday morning after a disappointing showing, considering the hundreds of millions he’s spent on his campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also fell well short of expectations. Our reporters in California and other key Super Tuesday states followed the day’s developments and will keep you up to date on the aftermath.Live Super Tuesday results Photos: Super Tuesday | 14 states hold primaries with 1,357 delegates at stake


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