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Kamala Harris endorses Christy Smith in race to replace Katie Hill

Smith is consolidating support among California Democratic leaders

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is endorsing Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the 25th District race. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is endorsing Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the 25th District race. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris has taken sides in the race to replace former California Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, endorsing Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the special election.

“In the State Assembly, Christy has been an effective leader and a fearless voice for the people she represents,” Harris said in a statement shared first with CQ Roll Call. “I know Christy will do the same in Congress — working to enact tougher gun safety laws, combat the climate crisis, fully fund public schools, invest more in emergency response and public safety, lower the cost of prescription drug prices and build an economy that works for everyone.”

Harris’ decision to weigh in on the primary further consolidates support for Smith among Democratic leaders in California as they look to hold onto the competitive House seat. Smith, a former school board member who won a competitive Assembly seat in 2018, has a long list of endorsements from elected and party officials. Smith quickly jumped into the race after Hill resigned earlier this month amid allegations of improper relationships with her staff. 

But Smith is not alone on the Democratic side. Cenk Uyugur, host of the liberal “Young Turks” show, is also in the race, despite living outside the 25th District. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Uyugur summed up his message to Democratic voters as: “Do you want someone who’s going to be polite to the Republicans or do you want someone who’s going to rip their face off?”

Uyugur has faced recent criticism for reported past disparaging comments about women, the LGBTQ community, orthodox Jews and Muslims. The Simi Valley Democratic Club, the Democratic Alliance for Action in Santa Clarita, the Los Angeles County Democrats, and California Women’s List, a PAC backing women who support abortion rights, have all condemned his comments. Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chairman Mark J. González has endorsed Smith.

The field is even more crowded on the Republican side. Former GOP Rep. Steve Knight, who was defeated by Hill by 7 points in 2018, is running, along with George Papadopolous, a former campaign aide for President Donald Trump who served prison time for lying to federal investigators. Navy veteran Mike Garcia and Lancaster City Councilmember Angela Underwood Jacobs, who declared their candidacies before Hill resigned, remain in the race as well.

Candidates from both parties will compete on the same primary ballot on March 3, the same day as the state’s presidential and congressional primaries. The timing could boost Democratic chances for holding the seat, given that high turnout is expected due to the competitive presidential primary. For the special election, if one candidate garners more than 50 percent of the vote, he or she wins the race outright. If no one gets above 50 percent, the top two would advance to a May 12 election.

Hill resigned earlier this month amid allegations of an improper relationship with a campaign staffer, which she admitted, and a congressional staffer, which she denied. Nude photos of Hill, who is in the midst of a divorce, appeared online as the allegations unfolded and the threat of more releases caused her to step down.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Democratic.

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