If you’re nerdy enough to be reading a blog about House elections, you’ve probably seen that there will be a special election in California’s 25th district. The current Representative, Katie Hill, has announced that she plans to resign due to her relationship with a campaign staffer, the release of nude photos of her, and allegations of an improper relationship with a congressional staffer, which would have violated the House’s ethics code.
Regardless of if her resignation was the right call, a double standard or a travesty, the seat will be hosting an upcoming special election. For better or for worse. The timeline is unclear, as Hill has not actually resigned, which will trigger the process of setting up a special election. Once she does, Governor Gavin Newsom has 14 days to announce a special election date, which must be within the next 140 days. Hill’s resignation is an opportunity for Republicans to pick up a seat they lost in 2018, but, in my opinion, they have a tough road ahead.
The district is one of the seven that Democrats flipped in 2018 when they dominated suburban areas that used to be Republican strongholds. It’s located in northern LA suburbs and includes a few small cities including Santa Clarita and Palmdale.
Obama carried the 25th by less than 1% in 2008 and then lost it to Romney by 2% in 2012. In 2016, though, Clinton beat Trump by a much wider 7% margin. Even with Clinton’s, win, though, the Republican incumbent, Stephen Knight, carried his seat by 6%. In the 2014 election, Knight didn’t even face a Democratic competitor due to California’s jungle primary system, where the top two vote getters advance to the general election regardless of party. In 2014 two Republicans were the top two in the primary, meaning that no Democrat made it into the general election. Then, in 2018, Katie Hill beat Knight by an impressive 9 point margin. It’s a remarkable example of how quickly suburban voters — once friendly to Romney-style Republicans — have quickly turned away from the new version of the Trump-centered Republican party.
It’s also a diverse district, with a white population of just 51%. 30% of the district is Latino, 8.3% is black, and 8% is asian/pacific islander. And it’s white, non-college share — the core of Trump’s base — is only 34%, compared to the national average of 45%.
These demographics and historical trends of the district, along with the current rightward sprint and unpopularity of Trump and the Republican Party, make it hard to imagine a red comeback in the district. As long as Democrats field a respectable candidate who has some fundraising chops (and there has already been movement in the field), they should be able to hold the district. The only hope that Republicans have is that special elections can be unpredictable and turnout in these races can be low. Republicans traditionally turn out in higher numbers than Democrats, but in the highly politicized/partisan environment, with Trump agitating Democrats, and with political awareness is at an all time high, Democrats will probably have no trouble turning out the voters to keep this trending blue district.