GOP super PAC enters special election battle in California

$600,000 will go for ‘surgical’ attacks in race for Katie Hill’s seat

Rep. Katie Hill resigned last year and a GOP super PAC is getting involved in the California special election battle to succeed her. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Katie Hill resigned last year and a GOP super PAC is getting involved in the California special election battle to succeed her. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 16, 2020 at 5:30am

Upping the ante in the special election battle for a suburban California district, a Republican super PAC is launching new attacks on the Democrat vying to replace a House member who resigned in scandal.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with House GOP leadership, is spending $600,000 on a mail and digital ad campaign targeting Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith, according to an announcement shared first with CQ Roll Call.

Smith is facing Republican Mike Garcia, a Navy veteran, in a May 12 special election to replace former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned in November after facing questions about  improper relationships with staff.

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The CLF campaign is aimed at two groups of voters. Mail referring to Smith’s record on a local school board, accusing her of laying off teachers and slashing their salaries, will be aimed at swing voters. Another CLF mail piece focused on immigration will be aimed at low-propensity Republican voters.

“CLF is investing in this race because we believe with a highly-targeted, surgical approach we can make a real difference,” the group’s president, Dan Conston, said in a statement. “Californians need the proven and steady leadership of Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia to lead our country out of these turbulent times — not another career politician only looking out for herself, like Christy Smith.”

Smith called similar attacks on her education record from the National Republican Congressional Committee misleading. Smith's campaign has noted that layoff notices were issued to teachers in 2010 after school budgets were cut due to the recession, but the teachers that were issued the notices were eventually rehired. Marc Winger, the superintendent of Newhall School District at the time noted that the school board voted unanimously to issue layoff notices and furlough staff for "short periods" and the votes were "fiscally conservative actions that were necessary under very difficult circumstances."

Smith also has the backing of several teacher unions, including the the National Education Association, California Teachers Association, California School Employees Association, California Federation of Teachers, and Education Workers United.

CLF’s effort underscores how important the 25th District seat, which Hill won in 2018 by defeating Republican Rep. Steve Knight by 9 percentage points, is to the GOP. Since the March 3 primary, both the NRCC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have aired ads in the expensive Los Angeles media market focused on the race.

Knight’s loss in 2018 came two years after Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the 25th District by 7 points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Democratic.

Garcia’s campaign announced Tuesday that he raised just over $1 million in the first three months of this year, and his campaign had $500,000 on March 31. Smith’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on her fundraising totals. Disclosures to the Federal Election Commission were due by midnight on Wednesday.

The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Hill’s term, which runs through early January. Smith and Garcia are also on the November ballot vying for a full two-year term in the House.