The frontrunner in the race to fill former congressmember Katie Hill’s seat, Assemblymember Christy Smith delivered a speech in Hill’s stead to the Women’s Political Committee on Friday at El Paseo. | Credit: Marian Shapiro

Christy Smith cites one overarching reason for confronting the ordeal of three election campaigns in eight months as she battles for a fiercely contested congressional seat.

A Democratic rookie Assemblymember from Santa Clarita, Smith is running to succeed former Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned amid a sex scandal last year from the 25th Congressional District, which spreads from Simi Valley to the northern San Fernando Valley.

As it happened last week, at the last minute, Hill also withdrew, because of illness, from a speech to the Women’s Political Committee in Santa Barbara, which left Smith once more to dive into the breach.

“I have two daughters, 24 and 20, and both of them say at this point they don’t want kids,” the 50-year-old House candidate and legislator told a sold-out crowd of more than 150, “because they are concerned about what the future of this country looks like, and whether or not the planet is livable enough to feel confident in bringing children in it.”

She paused for a moment over the silence her words drew, before adding, “So my service is framed by wanting grandkids.”

Smith’s adept timing earned a big laugh, a rare moment of glee at the WPC’s annual Presidents’ Circle Luncheon at El Paseo (chicken tostadas and iced tea), where a combination of events ​— ​among them, the just-announced withdrawal of Elizabeth Warren from a presidential primary race now consisting of two white male geezers; lingering dissent over the 1st District supervisor’s race; and the specter of the coronavirus, which led to elbow bumps in place of hugs ​— ​made for a more subdued mood.

“What I know is that people are tired ​— ​I know some of us feel that here,” she said, describing three years resisting Trumpism. “But that’s what we’re up against. We have to keep doing that.… The alternative is almost unthinkable.”

WHY IT MATTERS:  The 25th CD race has drawn national attention, largely because it is one of seven key California districts that flipped from Republican to Democratic control in 2018’s “blue wave” midterms and now is crucial to the party’s struggle to hold the House in 2020.

Last week’s primary also gained notoriety because the circumstances of Hill’s resignation (Independent 10/31/19) attracted an oddball collection of wannabes into a 13-candidate field, including a central figure in Russia’s efforts to influence Trump’s 2016 election and a Bernie Bro YouTube host with a history of misogynistic social media posts, along with Steve Knight, the previous GOP incumbent whom Hill ousted.

Smith finished first among six Dems, six Republicans, and one independent, with the current tally (thousands of uncounted ballots remain) giving her 31 percent, ahead of Trump Republican Mike Garcia, a former U.S. Navy pilot who, at 25 percent, beat former Rep. Knight, who failed to regain his seat despite House GOP leadership backing, at 20 percent.

“I am running against someone who, if you can believe, is running to the right of Trump,” Smith said. “He doesn’t believe in reproductive choice even for victims of rape or incest. He does not oppose family separation at the border. He does not believe in any kind of gun control.”

“And it is astounding to me that he is the frontrunner on the Republican side,” she added. “We know that that base remains motivated and wants to try to take some of those seats back that we won in 2018.”

The most unusual aspect of the campaign is that it’s a three-act production: Smith and Garcia next compete in a May 12 special election to complete the nine-month balance of Hill’s term, then face off in November over a new two-year term.  

Smith joked that she was glad to pinch-hit for Hill in Santa Barbara because it got her out of “call time” ​— ​politico-speak for making fundraising calls.

Having raised $1.7 million for the primary, she said in a post-speech interview, she now seeks another $2 million for the special election ​— ​“and probably double or triple that between May and November.”



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