Republicans are running ahead in two special elections for congressional seats that are viewed as bellwethers for November.
In Wisconsin, Republican Tom Tiffany easily won Tuesday’s special election, while in California preliminary results showed the GOP leading in a race to recapture a seat vacated by a Democrat.
In California, Mike Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot endorsed by President Donald Trump, was ahead of Democratic California state legislator Christy Smith by 55.9 percent to 44.1 percent in the state’s 25th congressional district north of Los Angeles, preliminary results from the California Secretary of State’s office said.
If his lead holds up as the results are tallied, Garcia, 44, will fill a seat that became vacant after Democrat Katie Hill resigned last year.
In Wisconsin, Republican Tom Tiffany (left with Mike Pence) easily won Tuesday’s special election, while in California preliminary results showed Republican Mike Garcia (right) ahead
Democrat Katie Hill resigned from Congress last year to spend more time with her family
But it could take several days for a winner to be declared, because the election was conducted largely by mail-in voting to avoid novel coronavirus exposure at the polls.
As long as they are postmarked by election day, California will accept ballots arriving up to three days later.
Dave Wasserman, editor of the Cook Political Report, wrote on Twitter that it would be ‘very tough’ for Smith to close the gap in votes.
If Garcia’s lead holds, he will become the only House Republican from a district Hillary Clinton won in 2016 with more than 50 percent of the vote, Wasserman said.
‘It is looking extremely good,’ Garcia said on a conference call. ‘I won’t give a victory speech tonight. We’ll save that for hopefully tomorrow night as the data comes in.’
Smith, in a statement, said the outcome was too early to call.
‘With so much at stake in this election for families across this district, from access to quality healthcare, to putting the needs of the middle class at the center of future economic relief packages passed in Congress, it is critical that every ballot cast is counted and the voice of every CA-25 voter is heard,’ she said.
People in California wait to cast their votes at a polling station for the special election between Democratic state assemblywoman Christy Smith and Republican businessman and ex-Navy pilot Mike Garcia to replace former Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill
President Trump accused Democrats in California of attempting to ‘steal another election’ by adding a last-minute polling place in a Democrat-heavy area
The contest was being watched for clues to which party Americans believe can better handle the coronavirus epidemic and how they think Trump is dealing with it. Smith had challenged Trump’s handling of the crisis.
The election was also seen as a test of mail-in voting. Because of the continued threat of the coronavirus, more states are expected to move to vote-by-mail in the general election in November.
Hill was the first Democrat to represent the district in 25 years when she was elected in 2018.
Garcia, a political newcomer, has described her tenure as ‘an embarrassment.’
A victory by Garcia would not threaten the Democrats’ control of the House of Representatives, but would be a boost for Republicans, who have worried whether the staggering public health and economic cost of the coronavirus outbreak will hurt their standard-bearer Trump’s re-election chances in November.
Voters wait in line to get checked in during a special election for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District on Tuesday at Wausau East High School in Wausau, Wisconsin
Poll worker Eric Boson submits absentee ballots during the Wisconsin 7th District special election on Tuesday in Marshfield, Wisconsin
Tiffany, a state senator endorsed by President Donald Trump, easily won a special congressional election Tuesday in a heavily conservative, rural Wisconsin district, cheering Republicans even as Democrats argued the victory revealed vulnerabilities for the president among his base.
Tiffany’s win over Democrat Tricia Zunker in northern Wisconsin´s 7th District comes in the state´s second election amid the coronavirus pandemic the past five weeks. Tiffany will replace former reality TV star Sean Duffy, a Republican who retired in September. The district has been vacant since Duffy´s retirement.
Trump won Wisconsin by less than a point, but carried the district by 20 points, in 2016. Tiffany’s win over Zunker was about 6 points less than that, based on preliminary results. Tiffany rejected Democrats’ argument that the smaller margin was a sign that Trump’s support was waning.
‘Any time you lose by 14 points, I don’t think that’s a moral victory,’ Tiffany said. ‘This is a decisive victory here.’
The win is in a district that Trump will need to once again win big if he hopes to again carry Wisconsin, a state he won by less than a point in 2016. Tiffany´s big victory also helps to erase the taste of a loss by a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice in last month´s election, a race that boosted Democrats´ confidence.
‘Tonight was a win for President Trump and Tom Tiffany that demonstrates the enthusiasm behind our president across Wisconsin,’ said Trump campaign spokeswoman Anna Kelly.