GOP Wins Pair of Special Elections

California Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) conceded the 25th congressional district special election race to Republican Mike Garcia late last Thursday, making this the first time in decades that the GOP has converted a Democratic seat in the deep blue state.

According to the California Secretary of State, Mr. Garcia, a retired Navy fighter pilot, took 55 percent of the vote. However, there was only a 34.1 percent turnout which was not the huge participation factor Smith needed to win the election.

In the March 3 state primary, 156,550 CA-25 voters participated in the regular election, a total not far from the special general, remembering that the 3/3 vote, at the time, featured a competitive Democratic presidential nomination event. Of the total, 81,994 voted in the Democratic presidential primary in a congressional district that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) carried over former Vice President Joe Biden, 35.6 – 33.6 percent. On the Republican side, in their non-competitive race, 64,138 individuals voted in the presidential primary with incumbent Donald Trump taking 92.3 percent of the cast ballots.

Other past races find that this special election turnout have been larger. In the 2018 midterm general election that elected Rep. Katie Hill (D), who would become embroiled in a sex scandal that forced her to resign a year later, 245,022 people participated. In the 2016 presidential election year, 261,161 voters cast their ballots in the congressional race.

Therefore, the larger historical numbers suggest that CA-25 is a mid-level turnout district in relation to the other California congressional districts. In the presidential election year, the district ranked 24th of the state’s 53 congressional districts in voter participation. In 2018, with their turnout figure approaching presidential election level voting, CA-25 reached 22nd position within the California district universe.

The Garcia win is big for the national Republican Party at a time when it needed to score a victory. Winning a seat in California, where President Trump is extremely unpopular (in CA-25, Hillary Clinton’s winning margin was 50-44%, after Republicans at the congressional level had carried the seat consecutively from 1992 until 2018) is a boost for them nationally and should help with fundraising and candidate enthusiasm.

The victory means the national Republican net conversion number drops to 19 seats in order to regain the House majority. Both Rep-Elect Garcia and Ms. Smith will now advance to the November general election by virtue of their finish in the regular primary election, held concurrently with the March 3 special election.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, Republican state Senator Tom Tiffany, as expected, easily won the special congressional election last Wednesday in the Badger State’s northwest 7th District with 57.2 percent of the vote from a huge voter turnout universe of just under 192,000 individuals. The Democratic nominee, Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker was a consensus candidate for the special, but she raised less than $500,000 for the race and the national Democratic institution did little to assist her from the outside.

Once the vote tally is finalized, the Wisconsin Elections Commission will certify the result and Mr. Tiffany will be sworn into the House of Representatives to complete former Rep. Sean Duffy’s (R-Wausau) term. Mr. Duffy resigned from office in August of last year for family reasons and the seat has been vacant ever since.

The 7th District occupies 21 central and northwest Wisconsin counties and parts of five others. For over 40 years, former House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D) represented the district. Rep. Duffy won the seat for the first time in 2010, after Mr. Obey chose to retire after serving 21 terms in office. Since the 2010 election, the district has moved toward the Republicans, and Mr. Tiffany’s victory seems to cement the seat as safe territory for the GOP.

The Congressman-Elect now will enter the regular 2020 primary scheduled for August 11. The candidate filing deadline is June 1, but it is unlikely he will see much competition in either the primary or general election considering last night’s strong performance.

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