Recent history has shown that the 25th congressional district doesn’t take too kindly to people moving into the district to run for office and has never elected one to represent it. From Phil Wyman in 1992 to Tony Strickland in 2014 to Bryan Caforio in 2016 and 2018, the voters seem to reject someone they don’t consider one of them.
But what about candidates who don’t even live in the district?
“I can’t think of anything like this,” College of the Canyons Professor Lena Smyth said, “nothing comes to mind.”
Voters have a decision to make in March because Republican George Papadopoulos and Democrats Cenk Uygur and Christopher Smith are running to finish Katie Hill’s term and to serve their own. The March 5th primary date will have their names in two places on the ballot.
They join several others who live in the district and are doing the same, including Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith (no relation) and Republicans Steve Knight, who served two terms, and Mike Garcia. Uygur said he plans to move into the district at the end of the school year.
Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, served 12 days in prison after pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI relating to contacts he had with Russian government agents while working for the Trump campaign. He cooperated with the Mueller investigation.
The Turkish-American Uygur created and co-hosts “The Young Turks,” a progressive news and opinion channel on multiple platforms. He previously had shows on MSNBC and Current TV. Local and county Democratic groups have criticized him over past comments about incest, women, Jews, Muslims and LGBTQ people (Uygur was born Muslim but now identifies as agnostic). He has apologized.
Christopher Smith is a documentary filmmaker (“TINY: A Story About Living Small”) who lives on the Glendale-Eagle Rock border but often comes into the area to hike on weekends because it reminds him of his hometown of Boulder, CO. He is unconcerned that his name is so similar to the Assemblywoman’s and he denies he is a Republican plant per the rumor he heard.
Some might wonder how they could possibly qualify to run. It’s because nowhere does federal law mandate members of Congress have to live in the districts they represent. They just have to live in the state. All the Constitution requires is state residency and a minimum age of 25. Papadopoulos is 32, Uygur 49, Smith 38.
In fact, nearly two dozen members in the 435-member House live outside of their congressional districts, according to published reports cited by thoughtco.com.
One of those members is Tom McClintock, a California Republican who currently represents the 4th District. He lives in Elk Grove, a suburb of Sacramento that is a 20 to 30 minute drive from the nearest town inside district lines.
Two others are Los Angeles County Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Grace Napolitano. The Los Angeles Times reported that both used to but no longer do because of redistricting. In Waters’ case, it’s just a three-minute walk across Vermont Avenue to the district line.
Local historian Leon Worden said the 25th tends to vote for a person who best serves the constituents, which is much harder to do if you don’t live there and never have.
Professor Smyth said voters generally tend to favor one of two types of people to represent them: either as a trustee or as a mirror. The trustee, in effect, says, “I understand you and your needs;” the mirror says, “I am more like you.”
She added that former Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, who represented the area for 20 years, is a mirror. So is Knight. Hill was more of a trustee despite being from Saugus.
Based on their websites, Uygur and Smith seem to be running as a trustee. Their platforms are similar. Uygur supports higher wages, Medicare for all, acknowledging climate change, supporting small businesses and cleaning up corruption. Smith also mentions several of these.
Papadopoulos’ website is just one page that offers a chance to donate and/or join by leaving an email address.
“Anecdotally, it’s going to be difficult for them,” Smyth said. “It’s an odd situation. I don’t think they’re going to be successful, but I’ve given up trying to predict.”
Worden put it differently: “It’s insulting to me. It’s a circus.”