They came to a private residence on Quigley Canyon Road to watch returns and celebrate Katie Hill’s advancing to the general election to face Steve Knight in the 25th congressional district.
But since returns came in so slowly, most people had left some six hours before 100 percent of the precincts had at least partially reported. This left people unable to truly exult in what Hill accomplished.
This was not the time to realize how much work still lay ahead. Hill had pretty much depleted her campaign coffers, while Knight still has about $1 million. Nor was much made how Knight was above 50 percent of the vote for the entire night, making it even more difficult for anyone to call him “vulnerable.”
Still, plenty happened.
8:50 p.m. Tuesday: Party host Jeri Boyd picks up people parked down the street at The Master’s University and drives them back to her home in a golf cart. She says she’s had several parties for Hill before and expects more than 100 people tonight.
8:52 p.m.: A reporter from “Vice News Tonight,” the HBO series that aired an episode about Hill last month, parks in Boyd’s driveway, blocking her access. The reporter moves her car, which then blocks a KCBS-TV news van.
8:54 p.m.: Hill is interviewed on KCBS before she enters the party. She’s wearing a white top and cowboy boots, befitting Boyd’s request for a Western theme. She’s asked about the approximately 118,000 people in the county who couldn’t vote because their names were left off the rolls.
“I didn’t know about that,” Hill said. “My staff has been trying to keep me calm.”
9:00 p.m.: Early returns from seven district precincts in Ventura County have Hill and Bryan Caforio deadlocked at 1,719 votes each.
9:03 p.m.: Hill enters the party without fanfare. But amid applause and cheers, somebody shouts, “You survived the fire,” referring to Hill’s Agua Dulce home being about a mile from the Stone fire.
9:09 p.m.: Mike Hill, the candidate’s father, grills hamburgers. He’s proud of her and how she ran a positive campaign. A Republican, he says he has influenced her on the need for fiscal responsibility, and she has changed his views on health care. He also isn’t sure everybody knows her real name is Katherine.
9:13 p.m.: According to the Secretary of State’s website, Caforio leads Hill 5,849-5,199. These numbers will not change for several hours.
9:26 p.m.: Hill’s husband, Kenny Heslep, says that Tuesday is their eighth wedding anniversary. “She’s always been extremely interested in politics,” he says. “She always talked about how she wanted to make a change.” He adds that he couldn’t run for office if he wanted to because, “I’m not a very good speaker and I don’t know policy like Katie does.”
9:35 p.m.: Julie Olsen, Saugus Union School District board member, sits in a wheelchair with both feet bandaged as a result of having broken bones in each foot for stepping off a curb. She says she helped the campaign by making phone calls and raising money. “She has a great knack of bringing together people with different points of view,” Olsen says. “I respect Congressman Knight, but I feel he has failed to represent all constituents.”
Reminded that it is impossible to do that, Olsen responds, “It’s not impossible to try.”
9:48 p.m.: Angela Giacchetti, 30, who lives in Glassell Park, in the 34th district, says she has been volunteering for Hill since January. She had quit her job and was looking for something to do when a contact suggested she check out Hill’s website. Giacchetti found she’s the same age as Hill and appreciated Hill’s candor on issues such as women’s rights and choice. “She reminds me of me,” she says.
10:11 p.m.: Rob Lafferty tends the bar. A guy pulls out some money to pay for his beer, and Lafferty says, “Keep it. Donate it to Katie. She’s going to need it.” Lafferty also calls Hill, “A breath of fresh air, and just what we frickin’ need.”
10:15 p.m.: Returns from the Los Angeles County sections of the district show Caforio leading 4,130-3,480.
10:19 p.m.: Staffer Hannah Nayowith and volunteer Stacy Fortner disagree over Nayowith’s employment status.
In introducing Nayowith, Fortner says, “She worked for Katie in Simi Valley.”
“I work. I’m working,” Nayowith said.
10:32 p.m.: Brett Haddock, city council candidate, sports a Bill Nye the Science Guy bow tie. “Early on, I was very impressed with Katie Hill,” he says. “It wasn’t until February that I decided to fully back her.”
He also wanted to remain neutral toward Caforio, “but he kept pushing me and pushing me to be against him. If he loses, he’s not staying (in the district). No way.”
10:44 p.m.: Hill gives a 25-minute speech in which she thanks family, friends, volunteers and staff. She asks the crowd questions, such as who broke bones from volunteering, who had been in car accidents from volunteering, who knocked on at least 1,000 doors, who worked at least 1,000 hours and who donated money. She also claims her campaign had the most individual donors, something Jess Phoenix’s campaign also claimed. “You guys are making this happen,” she said.
10:49 p.m.: During her speech, Hill asks where her campaign manager is, Zack Czajkowski. “He’s writing your acceptance speech!” someone shouts.
10:55 p.m.: Hill briefly stops her thank-yous to let Finance Director Graham Kelly speak. “Trust the process,” Kelly says. “My football coach said, ‘You’re down at the half? Go out and hit ‘em in the mouth in the third quarter.’ When we’re done, I think we’ll all be happy campers.”
10:58 p.m.: Czajkowski addresses the crowd: “Seeing the level of enthusiasm you’ve shown toward Katie is amazing. Let’s win this sh*t.”
11:01 p.m.: Kelly checks returns. Knight has 55 percent, Caforio 20 percent, Hill 18 percent.
11:13 p.m.: People start to leave.
11:18 p.m.: While waiting for more returns, Nathan Bousfield, president of the SCV Young Democrats who endorsed and later censured Caforio, plays the board game Catan with three others. Bousfield says his computer beeps every time the Secretary of State site updates. He checks and finds no new results. “Or maybe it’s a false alarm,” he concludes.
11:30 p.m.: Caforio leads 5,955-5,297. Knight, meanwhile, has 15,445.
11:35 p.m.: Hill says if she loses, “I’ll tell my supporters to vote for Bryan. I won’t be thrilled about it.”
11:49 p.m.: The gap is closing. Caforio leads 7,302-6,969. What’s left of the crowd whoops it up.
12:01 a.m. Wednesday: Hill supporter Ryan Asher, who’s been tracking results by county, announces that with 96 percent of Ventura County precincts in, Hill’s ahead by about 700 votes and trails Caforio by 330 in L.A. County, putting her ahead overall.
12:03 a.m.: Melainey Foerster, who got hit by a car Monday while canvassing, checks her phone and says Philip Germain, chair of 25UP (United for Progress), is saying Caforio will advance to face Knight. People express skepticism.
12:09 a.m.: Bousfield announces Hill is ahead 9,250-9,018.
12:11 a.m.: The Secretary of State website has Caforio ahead 7,668-7,234.
12:14 a.m.: Kelsey O’Hara, the volunteer to whom Hill made sexual comments in the “Vice News Tonight” segment, says the party cost nothing because everything was donated, saving the campaign thousands of dollars.
Regarding the HBO show, in which Hill says O’Hara is “texting all of her ex-hookups,” O’Hara said, “All I saw myself doing was working and hanging out. No one asked me my opinion, and I didn’t feel any of those things people say I felt.”
12:21 a.m.: Hill reads a text on a phone that says the Cook Political Report calls Ventura County for Hill.
12:24 a.m.: Hill leads 10,535-10,022.
12:39 a.m.: Hill on the lack of celebrities at the party: “This is a party for the people. This is my first Coors Light, but it’s on top of a tequila shot. Also, I’m functioning off two hours of sleep.”
12:58 a.m.: Czajkowski refuses to claim victory, citing superstition. Instead he says, “Katie has worked incredibly hard. She had the strongest message, deep, deep ties to the community, and the voters know she will represent this community.”
Czajkowski also says he has not received a concession call from the Caforio campaign. In fact, a concession statement didn’t come from the campaign until 9:57 a.m. Hill later said that Caforio called at 10:30 a.m. and left a message. She called back and didn’t reach him either.
1:05 a.m.: With about 64 percent of the precincts reporting, Hill leads Caforio 11,226-10,498. She also refuses to claim victory.
“We are on a great trajectory,” she says. “We’ve been looking at November from the get-go. People are ready for a change. They’re ready for more than politics as usual. Women are ready to rise up. People are ready to rise up and take on the challenges ahead.
Hill’s mother, Rachel Stevenson, says, “Perfect.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Hill replies.