Republican Representative Mike Garcia won re-election to his seat in northern Los Angeles County, dashing Democrats’ hopes that they could win back a district where they have a significant registration advantage. His victory propelled the Republicans to a majority in the next Congress.
Garcia defeated Kristi Smith, the former Democratic state representative, who had bested him in the 2019 special election race and in 2020, when he won by just 333 votes. The Associated Press called the race Wednesday, though official results will take longer.
Garcia had declared victory a week earlier, writing in a statement that he was “honored to be re-elected to serve two more years in Congress.” He said he applauded Smith for “jumping in the ring again.”
Going into the midterms, California’s 27th congressional district has been a tantalizing picking opportunity for Democrats. Republicans had represented the region, which includes Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita, for decades before the 2018 blue wave broke the GOP line.
Although García returned the seat to Republican control after the Democratic incumbent resigned, redistricting and changing demographics made the district look friendlier to Democrats. The party has a double-digit scoring advantage in the redrawn seat, which backed Joe Biden over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential race by 13 points.
Despite the area’s democratic leaning, residents’ frustration with high gas prices and the high cost of living gave García the edge. He also described his background as a Navy pilot, which resonates in this region with longstanding ties to the military and aviation industry.
Garcia, 46, baffled many political observers when, on January 6, 2021, he objected to the Electoral College vote counts in Arizona and Pennsylvania, joining 146 Republican members of the House of Representatives. The vote came just hours after a mob of Trump supporters invaded the US Capitol and assaulted police officers in an attempt to derail a Biden victory. While Garcia had plenty of company in the House GOP, a few others were in competitive territory.
Democrats indicated early on that they would highlight Garcia’s vote in their campaign against him, and the congressman initially sounded defensive. But the focus of the race has gradually shifted to other issues that have been driving the 2022 midterm elections: the economy and abortion rights. Garcia’s ads emphasized lower taxes and his work on behalf of veterans, while Smith emphasized Garcia’s support for a nationwide abortion ban.
Smith, 53, raised $3.5 million for her campaign through mid-October, a lot for a competitor. But the former state assemblywoman got a little help on the airwaves from Democratic campaign committees and outside groups, which have largely avoided Los Angeles’ expensive media market.
On Sunday, Smith said in a lengthy Twitter thread that “our campaign got close to zero outside resources to fight this fight.”
“When it comes to pay-TV, digital and postal communications, without DC’s help in defining Garcia and elevating our positive agenda, we wouldn’t stand a chance,” Smith said. She added that with the region likely to be “the turning point for convening the House of Representatives, the utter lack of investment makes no sense.”
As the incumbent, Garcia had the advantage as a fundraiser, bringing in over $6.5 million. He also got a boost from the House Republican campaign arm and the super PAC allied with House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy. In all, Garcia and his allies have spent more than $7 million on television and digital advertising, while Smith has spent close to $1 million.