Just because Steve Knight might enter the race for Congress in the wake of Katie Hill’s resignation doesn’t guarantee he will win, or even automatically advance out of the primary. So says a group of local residents, mostly veterans, who insist they will continue to support Mike Garcia.
“I’ve communicated with Steve Knight on Facebook. Love you, guy, but this is unacceptable,” Bill Reynolds, a local Vietnam veteran, said. “All of my veteran pals are going to stick with Mike.”
Even Knight, who appeared on Monday ready to jump in, took a step back.
“We’re looking at the whole thing,” Knight said on KHTS. “We want to take back the seat. If that means me jumping into the race, then that’s what we’ll do, and if not, that’s OK.”
The news that Hill will resign her seat has created a ripple effect that Trish Lester, president of Santa Clarita Republican Women Federated, called “some musical chairs going on.”
Not only has Knight considered a run, Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), who told the Gazette last month she considered running for Congress but decided she could get more done in Sacramento than Washington, announced she is also running for Hill’s seat, pleasing some Hill supporters.
Stacy Fortner, a Democratic activist, said on Facebook she’s doing “the Christy dance” with the hash tag “if you know, you know.” And podcaster Stephen Daniels said he doesn’t know a Democrat who knows policy better than Smith.
For their parts, Garcia and Angela Underwood-Jacobs said they would not leave the race even if Knight enters it. Both said they would challenge for the seat in the special election that is required to fill the seat for the rest of Hill’s term, as well as the regular primary in March (a third candidate, Mark Cripe, didn’t return numerous phone calls).
A Smith campaign spokesman also said she would run in both and maintain her Assembly seat “until she is elected to Congress.”
Then late Tuesday, former Trump aide George Papadopoulos, who was sentenced to 14 days in jail and served 12 for his role in the Russia probe, filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission.
A source said Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who was considering a run, is staying out.
According to the Constitution, House seats can only be filled by election. Once Hill leaves office – and as of press time, this date has not been announced – state law says Gov. Gavin Newsom has 14 days to call for a special election to take place on a Tuesday between 126 and 140 days after he calls for it. If Hill leaves Friday, as many believe she will, the earliest date would be March 10. The regular primary remains scheduled for March 3.
Smith’s exiting the Assembly race has left Republican challengers Suzette Valladares feeling eager and Lucie Volotzky feeling giddy.
Valladares said in a statement that she’s willing to debate the issues with anyone. “While I was looking forward to the debate of ideas against Christy Smith, I’m ready to stand up for the people of this district and challenge anyone that the Sacramento political class recruits to fill her seat,” she said.
Volotzky called Smith’s departure “a big plus.” She added, “People will pay more attention to the newcomers and what we stand for.”
Garcia, is also a newcomer, this being his first race. And he’s not going away. “I’ve been in this race since the beginning regardless of who else is running and will continue to do so,” Garcia said in a statement he texted to the Gazette. “Steve Knight served our country honorably, and he has previously earned my vote. He’s a good man, but we need a fresh voice to shake up Washington.”
Many Republicans contacted by the Gazette, some of whom live outside the area but within the 25th district, expressed similar themes: They admire and respect Knight but believe it is Garcia’s time. Many pointed to Knight’s showing in the last election, in which Hill defeated him by nine points.
“Of course, Steve Knight should not get in the race,”
Palmdale resident and veteran John Smith said. “Steve Knight doesn’t have the fire. If Katie Hill can beat him, anyone can.”
Former Congressman and Simi Valley Mayor Elton Gallegly, who once represented the area before redistricting, thinks everyone should “execute their constitutional rights and vote.” But as for him, “I worked hard for Steve Knight and got him elected. I’m supporting Mike Garcia.”
Saugus Realtor Steve Petzold said he’s looking for a candidate in the mold of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) who would support the president, and believes that is Garcia. “Steve Knight was more reluctant to support Trump doing the Russia investigation,” Petzold said. “Papadopoulos is more of a carpetbagger.”
Lester expressed concern that too many Republican candidates could fracture the community as she saw happen when Knight ran against Tony Strickland in 2014. “To have two, three, four strong candidates, I don’t think it does anybody any favors,” Lester said. “It’s going to get uglier, and it makes me sad.”
Alan Ferdman, head of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, summed it up this way: “Both parties are going to do the same thing: Select the person they consider the most electable and pressure everyone else not to run.”