Freshman California Republican Steve Knight promises he’ll do much better raising campaign money in the second quarter than he did in the first.
Knight raised less than $29,000 in the first quarter, stirring doubts about his ability to defend his seat in a district that leans only slightly Republican and that President Barack Obama carried in 2008. Last year, Knight defeated fellow Republican Tony Strickland with 53 percent of the vote after Democrats failed in the June primary to advance a candidate to the top-two November ballot.
“I take full responsibility” for the feeble fund raising, Knight said. “We had an awful lot of issues that we were overcoming. We wanted to make sure our offices were up and going, and we were out in the district quite a bit. And I really didn’t raise any money in the first quarter.”
He pledged that in the second quarter, “it’s going to be a much, much better number and it’s going to get us back into a realm where people are going to say, ‘Well, Knight figured it out. He’s fundraising at the level we would expect.’”
Last week, the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rating changed from Safe Republican to Leans Republican, reflecting in part Knight’s weak fundraising and the likelihood of the Democrats getting a credible challenger on the November ballot.
Santa Clarita Water Board Member Maria Gutzeit, a Democrat, is running, as is Democrat Lou Vince, an Agua Dulce town councilman and police officer who ran an unsuccessful bid for Los Angeles County sheriff in 2014.
In an interview, Knight reflected on the ugly confrontation he had with a group of anti-illegal immigration hardliners last month outside his Simi Valley district office.
A protestor named “Mike” gave Knight a prolonged, bone-crushing handshake and slapped him on the shoulder. He accused Knight of supporting amnesty and lying about his vote for the “clean” bill funding the Department of Homeland Security after provisions defunding Obama’s executive actions on immigration were dropped from the bill.
A video recorded by a bystander showed Knight, who served for 18 years on the Los Angeles Police Department, saying, “If you touch me again I’ll drop your ass. … Don’t touch me!”
Knight explained that he’d had previous encounters with this group of protestors. “They came to my opening in Palmdale and they were disruptive as all get out.”
On that day last month in Simi Valley, he said, “I probably shouldn’t have talked to them, but they asked me to come over and talk to them and I did.”
The activist with the painful handshake “was trying to get some sort of reaction; he did. He got a reaction. I’m a U.S. congressman; I get that. I’m also a person. … Maybe I should have just walked away.”
But Knight said some people who’ve seen the video give him credit for staying for several minutes attempting to explain his vote to the group even after the ugly incident with “Mike.”
“I think that’s what everybody got out of it. I didn’t just get ticked off and walk away,” he said.
Until his death in 2004, Knight’s father, Pete Knight, served in the California Assembly and the state Senate, representing roughly the area Knight now represents in the U.S. House.
Knight said when his father first got elected to the assembly in 1992, “we had probably a 15-point advantage for Republicans” in voter registration in that area. Today, he said, it’s about a 1-point advantage.
But a lot of today’s independent voters are actually “Republicans who are little bit upset,” he said. In the end, they often vote for Republican candidates.
“I get a lot of Democrats to vote for me, and lot of decline-to-states,” he said. “A lot of that is because we’ve had a good relationship with Democrats, we’ve had a good relationship with [people by] reaching across the aisle.”
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