California’s 25th Congressional District: Can Republican Steve Knight hang on to his seat?

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California’s 25th District of Santa Clarita could be up for grabs in this year’s midterms. KCRW’s Chery Glaser spoke to Dan Schnur, a political strategy expert and professor at USC’s Annenberg School to understand how hard Republican Steve Knight will be fighting to hang on to his seat.

Listen to Chery Glaser’s interview with Dan Schnur:

Republican Steve Knight of Santa Clarita is running for his third term in the district, but holding on to his seat could be a challenge. “This reflects a challenge that many Republicans representing suburban districts are facing around the country,” said Schnur. He added that there are currently 23 districts represented by a Republican that voted for Hillary Clinton back in the 2016 presidential election. Those Republicans aren’t “Donald Trump Republicans,” said Schnur, but “they tend to be more old school, more traditional Republicans. The Mitt Romney Republicans, the George Bush Republicans.”

“The challenge for Knight and other suburban GOP congressional representatives is to distance themselves from Trump to the degree that they can, in order to attract more swing voters.” At the same time, they don’t want to discourage their base on election day.

Although Knight has been trying to distance himself from Trump, that does not mean he disagrees with everything the president does. Knight voted to roll back the Affordable Care Act and voted in support of the latest tax reform bill. “Both Obamacare and the tax cuts are issues in which traditional Republicans are inclined to support both the president and a lot of congressional Republicans,” said Schnur.

In this race, Knight faces two main Democratic competitors, Bryan Caforio and Katie Hill. The two of them have raised more money than Knight did in 2017.

“Both parties see the seat as key to the control of Congress, but also somewhat representative, somewhat symbolic of the broader battle for the suburbs that the parties are waging nationally,” Schnur told KCRW. 

One of the challenges Democrats face in the midterms is a preponderance of candidates. “One of the real challenges for the Democratic party is finding a way to unify behind a particular candidate as a number of Democratic candidates see Knight as very vulnerable.”

A Republican Super PAC is fighting back by potentially spending millions of dollars on a handful of races across the country, including Knight’s. “They wouldn’t be putting that kind of money into his race if they didn’t think he had a good chance for reelection. That said, they wouldn’t be putting a lot of money into this race if they didn’t think he faced a significant threat,” said Schnur.

“The question for Knight is to what extent does he distance himself from Trump in order to pick up those more traditional Republican voters and possibly Independents. And to what extent does he stand with Trump in order to motivate the grass roots activists Republican base.” He added, “the Democratic candidates still have to win over the middle too, so that balancing act on both sides is how you turn out your vote on election day.”