SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Democrat Katie Hill was pulling away from incumbent Republican Steve Knight in the polls, and then Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court.
The confirmation fight over Kavanaugh gave Knight a boost, according to polling conducted by Hill’s campaign, and now, two weeks out from Election Day, the Los Angeles-area House race is neck-and-neck.
Hill relayed the urgency to supporters during a roundtable with them last week in her Simi Valley field office in California’s 25th Congressional District, which stretches from Simi Valley through the San Gabriel mountains into Palmdale.
“Kavanaugh happened, and the polling has tightened since, so we’re exactly tied again,” Hill told the room of dedicated supporters, urging them to have conversations with potential voters about the issue.
Hill’s polling found that 52 percent of those surveyed supported the Senate’s decision to confirm Kavanaugh, compared with 45 percent of likely voters who did not.
“The stories that we need to tell are how this really impacts you as a woman and what we’re saying for our daughters,” Hill said. “There’s this total misunderstanding and I had to have this conversation even with my dad.”
Hill’s father, who is a Republican “surrounded by Fox News,” wondered why Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, waited 30-plus years to come forward, the Democrat said. In her conversation with him, Hill reminded her father that she never told him when she was assaulted as a teenager and that women have valid reasons for not coming forward.
The Kavanaugh poll was a conservative sample, Hill clarified. Democrats overall are handling competitive races as though turnout will be low in order to avoid a 2016 repeat and instill in volunteers an urgency to get out the vote.
Hill’s race against the two-term incumbent Knight is a toss-up. Whether Democrats can flip red seats like Knight’s will determine if they win control of the House in November.
Hill, a bisexual millennial, considers herself an “anti-politician.” She has 3,000 volunteers in the field who have knocked on an estimated 220,000 doors and she raised $3.8 million in the third quarter, well surpassing Knight’s $456,000.
Knight has used a state proposition on the ballot to repeal a gas tax increase passed by the legislature to attack Hill. The federal gas tax has not been increased since 1994 to account for inflation, forcing a number of states, including red states such as South Carolina and Tennessee, to increase the tax.
An ad paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, hits “liberal Katie Hill” for supporting “higher gas prices.” A number of vulnerable Republicans in California have hit Democrats over the state gas tax increase that passed in 2017, hoping it will boost turnout.
Hill said she’s not for the proposition repealing the current gas tax because “it’s a $6 billion a year giveaway to big oil, but I’m not in favor of increasing it more.”
Hill targeted Knight for his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and support of the GOP tax overhaul, which contributed to a $1.2 trillion increase in the national debt. Republicans in turn have taken aim at Hill’s youth, calling her “immature” and “out of touch” in an ad that uses Vice News Tonight footage.
As Hill has traveled the district, focusing on millennial turnout and minorities, she’s been followed by a Vice News crew documenting her every move. Last week they joined her at a event in Palmdale, celebrating a local Latino radio show. Latinos make up 40 percent of the district, but are difficult to mobilize.
Lilia Galindo, host of Antelope Valley’s "Cafe con Leche" radio show, said she’s urged her listeners to get out and vote for Hill.
“The Latino community has a lot at risk with the current administration,” said Galindo. “I like Steve Knight, but this is more important.”
Knight has tried to distance himself from President Trump on immigration, but the issue could play a critical role in the race in the final days as Trump ramps up attacks on the migrant caravan moving through Mexico.
A number of congressional Democrats, from Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., have turned out to campaign for Hill. The district is one of the seven GOP-held seats in California that went for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, making it a top target and critical to Democrats fight to reclaim the House.
Sitting by Hill’s side in her Simi Valley office last week, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., told potential voters and volunteers that the “whole country is watching” the 25th District.
“This is one of the ones that will define the future of our country,” Jayapal said. “No pressure.”