Results of Tuesday’s midterm election confirm that California’s 25th Congressional District is no longer a safe haven for the GOP. The former Republican bastion we call home is increasingly tilting in a different direction due in part to the growing number of Democrats and those who decline to state a party preference now residing in the district.
As much as the media and voices from both ends of the political spectrum had said this election would be a referendum on the president and one-party domination of Congress, it’s clear that kitchen table issues – specifically affordable health care and taxes – were matters that resonated more with voters in the Antelope, Santa Clarita, and Simi Valleys.
Witness the last-ditch efforts of Republican candidates – including the 25th District’s Steve Knight – who attempted to mislead voters, telling them the only way to ensure that health coverage would continue for Americans with pre-existing conditions was to cast their votes for Republicans. It was the party’s mantra for those in tight races throughout the country. They pulled this stunt only after polls indicated that health care was the number one issue among voters this year. In most instances, candidates who made those claims weren’t entirely truthful.
After Rep. Knight told a town hall meeting in April, 2017 that he would vote to keep protections for those with pre-existing conditions, he went back on his word. He voted for Republican-led legislation that effectively killed those provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Knight later proved that he had a pre-existing condition of his own: anxiety over losing his seat in Congress.
In late September – knowing a return to Washington might not be in his future – Knight cynically introduced the “Maintaining Protections for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act.” His calculated move wasn’t enough to sway the majority of the district’s voters. Like many elected officials, he belatedly told his constituents what he thought they wanted to hear rather than listen to what they had to say in the first place. To be fair, it’s a malady suffered by many politicians from both parties.
Even though Knight voted the party line when it came to health care legislation, he at least did so politely and without making much noise. Unlike Arizona Rep. (and, as of this writing, presumed Senator-elect) Martha McSally, who ran campaign ads in the final weeks of her senatorial race in which she earnestly stated that she was “leading the fight to force insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.” This is the same Martha McSally who, according to media reports, told a conference of fellow Republican leaders last year “let’s get this f***ing thing done!” The thing she was referring to was killing the Affordable Care Act.
Steve Knight is too nice a guy to talk like that. Well, maybe except for that time in Simi Valley when he told an unruly protester that he would “drop his ass” after the guy got in the congressman’s face. That kind of campaign rhetoric is a sure vote-getter (you can watch the instant replay on YouTube).
Representative-elect Katie Hill’s victory over incumbent Steve Knight this week is a testament to her impressive – some might say aggressive – get-out-the-vote strategy and grassroots support. She heard and listened to what voters were saying. Especially on issues like healthcare, which was a cornerstone of her campaign. Her campaign was about being responsive to the needs of the ordinary folks who live in the district; those who may have felt disenfranchised and ignored by the incumbent. Similar feelings drew many voters to Donald Trump in 2016. It’s what drew district voters to Hill this year for entirely different – and probably better – reasons.
Hill will enter Congress at a time when political parties are becoming increasingly factionalized and the electorate is feeling increasingly marginalized. Two years is not a long time to make a difference. Re-election efforts are almost immediately on the horizon and a return to office is never guaranteed. No matter how earnest Hill’s efforts once in office, ill-conceived acts of retribution and retaliation on the part of her Democratic colleagues could hurt her prospects to return to Washington in 2020.
This is a tough time for politicians to adhere to their principles. But it also appears to be the dawning of a new age in politics. By every indication, Katie Hill is her own person. In an interview earlier this year, she eschewed the old adage that “all politics is local,” saying instead that “all politics is personal.” She added that serving her constituents would take precedence over party ideology.
Our voices this week were loud and clear. And whether red or blue or anything in between, holding our leaders accountable for their actions is something district voters are quite comfortable with. Tuesday’s results were proof of that. As they will be in Tuesdays to come.