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Special California election to replace Katie Hill set for March 3

Vote on same day as presidential primary could hurt GOP effort to take back seat

Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., resigned earlier this month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has set the special election date to replace former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, likely complicating the Republican effort to flip the 25th District.

Newsom set the special election primary for March 3, the same date as the Golden State’s presidential and congressional primaries. Candidates from both parties run on the same ballot. 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.

The March 3 date was expected but could be bad news for Republicans, because Californians are expecting high Democratic turnout for the contested presidential primary. Hill flipped the longtime Republican 25th District, which is north of Los Angeles, last fall, defeating GOP Rep. Steve Knight by 7 points.

The special election would be for the remainder of Hill’s term, which runs until January 2021. Voters on March 3 would also hold a primary for the regular two-year term that begins in 2021. The top two vote-getters in that election would face off next November.

Hill resigned earlier this month following 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. The threat of more releases led to Hill's decision to step down. She decried a "double standard" that she said forced her out of office.

Knight is running in the special election to replace Hill, but he has not cleared the Republican field. George Papadopolous, a former campaign aide for President Donald Trump who served prison time for lying to federal investigators, is running. Navy veteran Mike Garcia and Lancaster City Council Member Angela Underwood Jacobs are also in. Both declared their candidacies before Hill resigned. 

One announced Democrat, state Assemblywoman Christy Smith, has earned the backing of Hill, as well as other Democratic leaders and members of Congress. Hill tweeted Wednesday that Smith “is the only one who can keep it blue and the only one the community deserves.” She said she phoned Smith before resigning to make sure she would run. 

“Boys, please be gentlemen and step aside,” Hill tweeted. “She’s got this.”

But another Democrat has recently entered in the race: Cenk Uygur, host of the liberal “Young Turks” show. The Los Angeles Times reported that Uygur lives 30 miles outside the 25th District. In 2017, the liberal group Justice Democrats severed ties with Uygur following revelations of sexist blog posts he wrote in the early 2000s. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 25th District race Likely Democratic.

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