Election 2018: GOP Rep. Steve Knight, Democrat Katie Hill in tight race in LA County’s key battle for Congress

Posted on: 11/07/2018 00:00

(dailynews.com) Republican Rep. Steve Knight and Democratic challenger Katie Hill were virtually tied with nearly one-third of voting precincts reporting Tuesday night in a congressional election that has been one of the nation’s most expensive and has implications far beyond the Los Angeles-area district.

The race in California’s 25th District was one of five in Southern California in which a changing voter population and President Donald Trump’s tepid popularity gave Democrats hope of winning seats long held by Republicans, making them key to Democrats’ efforts to pick up 23 nationwide and capture control of the House.

Nationally, Democrats on Tuesday took a controlling majority in the House. But locally, the Knight-Hill race riveted partisans’ attention.

Knight, R-Palmdale, had been elected to Congress twice previously in a district that spans the L.A.-Ventura county border and covers parts of the San Fernando, Santa Clarita, Simi and Antelope valleys.

But Hill, after dispatching 2016 Knight challenger Bryan Caforio and two other Democrats in the June primary, waged a well-funded campaign to try to tap a new liberal vein in the partly rural district. Democrats led Republicans by 4.3 percentage points in voter-registration 15 days before the election. Voters in the 25th favored Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump by 6.7 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election even as they chose Knight over Caforio by 6.2 percentage points.

In the 2018 cycle, according to data posted Tuesday by OpenSecrets.com, combined spending by Hill, Knight and outside groups totaled $27.7 million, making it the eighth most expensive House race in the nation this year. Races in Southern California made up five of the top 10.

The most recent poll, taken Oct. 25-28 for Siena College and The New York Times, showed Knight leading Hill 48 percent to 44 percent among likely voters, with 8 percent still undecided, suggesting a shift toward the incumbent since one September survey showed Knight leading by 2 percentage points and another had Hill up by 4.

But if Knight was feeling momentum, it was in danger of stalling after a controversy during the final full week of campaigning. A Santa Clarita resident who starred in a Knight campaign commercial was reported to have a history of making bigoted and threatening statements on Facebook. Knight dropped the ad video from his website and social-media accounts; it hadn’t appeared on TV in more than a month.

Hill, 31, head of a homeless-services nonprofit, told voters she’s a moderate Democrat whose views are more in line with district residents than Knight’s. She accused the incumbent of letting campaign contributions from corporations and other special interests dictate his votes on legislation, a charge Knight denied.

And she noted that Knight voted to support Trump’s side on legislation 98.9 percent of the time, according to the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight.com, a fact that presumably was a turnoff to many in the district; The New York Times’ October poll showed 47 percent of likely voters in the district disapprove of the president’s performance in office while 46 percent approve.

Knight, 51, a former LAPD officer, Palmdale city councilman and state legislator who is the only Republican congressman in a district located mostly in L.A. County, presented himself as a representative who serves local constituents, including small businesses and the aerospace industry.

He pointed to times when he broke ranks with Trump on some issues, opposing tariffs on imported solar panels and solar cells, opposing a proposal for a “space force,” and his support of a bill directing the president to impose sanctions on Russia and other adversaries.

Find the latest election results here.



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