Former GOP congressman may seek old seat as Democrat resigns

Rep. Steve Knight
Posted at 3:55 PM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-28 18:55:39-04

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former Republican California congressman may seek his old seat after the Democrat who beat him last year said she'll resign amid an ethics investigation.

Former Rep. Steve Knight said he hasn't decided whether he'll enter an anticipated special election for the seat being vacated by Rep. Katie Hill. It had been the last Los Angeles County seat held by a Republican, but Hill defeated Knight as part of a Democratic wave that knocked seven California Republicans out of power in 2018.

"We haven't decided," Knight said Monday. "We're running the traps and doing a little bit of work behind the scenes to make sure that if we jump in we have a real chance of winning.

Knight had not been planning to challenge Hill in 2020, and he would enter a field with three other Republicans who have already been campaigning, Mike Garcia, Angela Jacobs Underwood and Mark Cripe.

On the Democratic side, state Assemblywoman Christy Smith quickly tried to clear the field Monday by announcing her candidacy alongside endorsements from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and enough state party delegates to win the party endorsement.

Smith was elected to the state Legislature in 2018, also after flipping a seat long held by Republicans.

"It's been made clear to me that the people of the 25th Congressional District want and need a new voice to fight for them in Washington," Smith said in a statement. "I would like to commend Congresswoman Katie Hill for her service on behalf of the 25th District as well as her willingness to put country first by stepping down from office."

Hill is the target of a House ethics committee investigation looking into whether she had an inappropriate relationship with an aide in her congressional office, which is prohibited under House rules. Hill, one of the few openly bisexual women in Congress, has denied wrongdoing and vowed to fight a "smear" campaign she said was being waged by her estranged husband, who she called abusive.

A special election date hasn't been set, and Democrats have almost run out of time for Gov. Gavin Newsom to set it for March 3, the same day as the presidential primary, which could boost Democratic and independent turnout. Newsom, a Democrat, can't set the special election until Hill officially leaves office, which she hasn't done.

While Knight has name recognition after serving two terms in Congress, he lost to Hill by 9 percentage points last year.

Garcia, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, has raised the most money of any Republican seeking the seat. Though he voted for Knight previously, he said the district needs "a fresh voice to shake up Washington."

"If you want to stop radical policies from destroying our country, send a fighter pilot, not a politician," he said.

Jacobs Underwood is a bank executive and member of the Lancaster city council. Cripe is a Marine Corps veteran who leads a program for at-risk youth through the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Smith is a former school board president from Santa Clarita. During her first year in the Legislature, she authored bills to make high schools display their sexual harassment policies, allow human trafficking victims to tap a state financial assistance form, and a bill limiting where charter schools can be located.