Democrat Christy Smith has conceded to Republican Mike Garcia in the special election for the U.S. House seat left vacant when former California Democratic Rep. Katie Hill resigned amid controversy last year.
“While it’s critical that we ensure every vote is counted and recorded, we believe that the current tally shows Mike Garcia is the likely victor in the May 12 special election. As such, I’d like to congratulate him,” Smith said in a statement on Wednesday.
Garcia jumped to a significant early lead Tuesday night over Smith in California’s 25th district, the California secretary of state’s office said. It put Garcia’s share of the vote at 56 percent to 44 percent for Smith.
Garcia, a businessman and Navy veteran who has never before held political office, was endorsed by President Donald Trump, while Smith, a state assembly member, had been endorsed by a number of prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The special election results determine who serves out the remainder of what would have been Hill’s first term in office. But there will be a rematch because Smith and Garcia are still running as candidates for a November general election to decide who holds the seat in the next session of Congress.
The seat in the northern Los Angeles suburbs became vacant after Hill last year resigned following a sex scandal.
“After seeing more results last night, it is clear that our message of lower taxes and ensuring we don’t take liberal Sacramento dysfunction to Washington prevailed,” Garcia, 44, said in a statement Wednesday.
Garcia’s “big congressional win” was heralded by Trump in a tweet Wednesday morning in which he noted it was the first time in many years (since 1998) that Republicans had flipped a Democratic congressional seat in California, a Democratic stronghold.
Big Congressional win in California for Mike Garcia, taking back a seat from the Democrats. This is the first time in many years that a California Dem seat has flipped back to a Republican. Also, Tom Tiffany beat his Democrat rival BIG in Wisconsin. Two great Congressional WINS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2020
The result marked a setback for Democrats coming so soon after Hill had grabbed the long-time Republican suburban turf by nearly 9 percentage points in 2018.
The district has more Democrats than Republicans but the special election turnout seemed to be Republican-leaning, “which may not be the case in the fall,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a newsletter on campaigns.
The CNN Wire and Reuters contributed to this report