Former President Obama endorsed California State Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D) Tuesday in a special election to fill former Rep. Katie Hill's (D) seat.
“Now, more than ever, we need pragmatic, experienced and effective leaders in Washington,” Obama said in a statement. “I'm proud to endorse Christy Smith in the May 12 special election for Congress because she has proven herself as a leader in her community. Let's help Christy protect this seat.”
Smith is facing Republican Mike Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot, in the special election.
The election will be conducted entirely through vote-by-mail amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, less than an hour after Obama said in a statement that he was proud to endorse Smith as one of the “pragmatic, experienced and effective leaders” needed in Washington, Republican were out with their own statement, suggesting the endorsement was a sign of Democratic desperation.
“President Obama was so on the fence about endorsing Christy Smith that he waited until CA-25 voters had been returning their ballots for THREE WEEKS before endorsing her?” wrote Torunn Sinclair, a spokeswoman for the GOP committee. “What a vote of confidence!”
But for both campaigns, the endorsements are more about who than why. And with only days to go in what promises to be a tight contest, those names can translate into campaign cash.
“Now Hillary Clinton and Amy Klobuchar have joined have joined (former presidential candidates) Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren in supporting Christy Smith for Congress,” her campaign said in fundraising appeal last week. “It’s great news, but it won’t nearly be enough if we don’t raise enough money over these last few days.”
The election is a microcosm of the country’s politics amid the health crisis: It is an early test of Mr. Trump’s sway in a race both he and his former rival, Hillary Clinton, have weighed in on. It is a battle over vote-by-mail in which doubts have been sown over the election’s integrity. And it is showing just how nasty politics can be, even under lockdown.
In the 2018 midterm elections, this Southern California district, the 25th Congressional, was one of the highest-profile victories for Democrats. But after just a year in office, Representative Katie Hill resigned after admitting to an affair with a staff member. Now, Ms. Smith and Mr. Garcia are locked in a bitter battle that will serve as an important early test for both parties ahead of the fall.
One key question is how much of a role Mr. Trump will play. Democrats believe that focusing on his leadership, particularly over the pandemic, will help them in a suburban district north of Los Angeles that Ms. Hill won by nine percentage points. But Republicans appear emboldened, counting on reliable conservatives to cast their ballots.Each of the roughly 425,000 voters in the district was sent a ballot for the election — with return postage already paid. But there’s another unknowable: How much will it take to get voters to move those ballots from their kitchen counter to their mailbox at a time when many are consumed by worries about their health and finances?If the choice is between “‘I’ve got to spend a little time thinking about who my congressional candidate is today’ or ‘I’ve got to figure out a way to get back online and apply one more time for my unemployment insurance that I haven’t gotten yet,’” the answer is obvious, Ms. Smith said. “People are going to take care of their families.”“We get the challenge,” she added. “We understand how hard it is.”