Regardless of political beliefs, it’s undeniable that this has been an unforgettable presidential election. As America dealt with a divisive global pandemic, its reckoning with systemic racism, and two political parties more ideologically separated than ever before, its people voted in a way that will have a lasting effect on our country.
One of the most unpopular sitting presidents, Republican Donald Trump, lost his bid for reelection against former Vice President, Democrat Joe Biden. The allegations of voter fraud that have accompanied the certification of election results have overshadowed the surprising and important results of the down-ballot races and propositions. From Democrats across the board failing to flip important Senate and House of Representative Seats to progressive propositions being passed nationally, there was much more to this election than choosing a president.
If the American people take away anything from the 2020 elections, it should be the power of every vote. People, especially those who are of the minority political party within a state, may say that their votes don’t matter, but it is evident that they do. Small quantities of votes decided many swing states, congressional races, and local elections this year.
Despite being a democratic stronghold, California saw one of the closest House races of this election in the 25th Congressional District. Since being redistricted in 2013, this district has included most of northern Los Angeles County and part of eastern Ventura County. In recent years, what was once thought to be a reliable Republican district has become a battleground.
This year, Democrat Christy Smith, the California State Assemblywoman for the 38th District, ran against Republican Incumbent Mike Garcia for his seat. Their election was a rematch after Garcia grabbed the open seat in the district’s May special election. With the increased voter turnout of a general election and the House’s importance to both parties, the two campaigns saw a combined over $20 million of outside spending in their race.
Representative Garcia campaigned on his allegiance to Trump and dissatisfaction with Californian politics. In contrast, Assemblywoman Smith campaigned vigorously against Trump and Garcia’s policies and behavior while touting her state legislative experience.
As voter turnout and mail-in voting were both at an all-time high this year, election results were inconclusive for weeks after election day. With each upload of new ballots, there was no telling which candidate would pull into the lead in this extremely close election.
Finally, on November 30th, election officials announced that Garcia had successfully won reelection. Although he won, this election was another sign of the continuous shift left of CA-25. Final totals show that of the 338,943 votes tallied, Garcia won by only 333 votes. Ultimately, the district followed the national trend of Republican candidates winning hotly contested races, although by a tiny margin.
Before the race was officially called, Representative Garcia issued an official statement on election results focused on thanking his supporters for giving him “the privilege of serving CA-25 for another 2 years.” In a definite contrast to the civility found within the Republican Party on a national level, Garcia also gave his opponent “a tip of the hat” for running an “excellent and aggressive campaign.”
In her concession statement, Assemblywoman Smith thanked her supporters for “the strong, grassroots campaign we ran,” despite not winning the race. Saying that “though I’m humbled by every vote we earned, the results show our district is deeply divided,” and that she hopes for change in the future.
Although federal elections may get the most attention, local elections are important as well. Similar to that of CA-25, this year’s city-level elections in Simi Valley were a test of whether the traditionally Republican town would remain that way with its changing populations. While city-level elected officials are nonpartisan positions, it is apparent by their stances on local issues where they stand.
After Democrat Ruth Luevanos was elected to the Simi Valley City Council in 2018, local Democrats were hopeful that the new city council district system would lead to more Democrats in power. In the 2020 election, Simi Valley Democrats did not achieve their goal. The incumbent Mayor Keith Mashburn beat out his competitors by over 17,000 votes, and the incumbents won both city council districts.
Although they didn’t get the election results they wanted, the candidates endorsed by Democrats performed better overall compared to recent years. For instance, in City Council District 1, Phil Loos lost to incumbent Dee Dee Cavanaugh by just 257 votes, a closer margin than in previous years.
Despite the losses, Simi Valley Democrats are not disheartened. Local student activist, Delaney Moss said,“Only a handful of Democrats and progressives have been elected to leadership positions in Simi Valley, but this should be more motivating than discouraging. These campaigns played a vital role in generating a greater interest in local politics and creating momentum for future campaigns. It’s important that we continue our strides and build on that momentum, because we are on the eve of substantial change in Simi Valley and we can’t stop now.”