SANTA CLARITA (CBSLA) — Republican aerospace executive Mike Garcia took an early lead Tuesday night over Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the special election to fill the congressional seat vacated by Democrat Katie Hill.

Garcia led with 78,701 votes, 56%, to Smith’s 62,054 votes, 44%, according to figures released by election officials in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

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“While the night is early and there are still votes to be counted, we are confident our message of low taxes and not taking Sacramento dysfunction to Washington has resonated with the voters of California,” Garcia said in a statement. “This district has been without leadership for far too long, and the people here need a strong independent voice fighting for them in D.C., especially during these challenging times.”

Smith said in a statement issued by her campaign that she was “extremely grateful for the support our campaign has received from every corner of this district.”

“The outcome of this race remains too early to call,” she said. “With so much at stake in this election for families across the district, from access to quality health care 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.”

There will be no update to the vote count in the Ventura County portion of the district Tuesday. Vote-by-mail ballots in the Ventura County will begin being counted Wednesday.

The election was conducted nearly entirely with mail-in ballots. There were nine vote centers open Tuesday, seven in Los Angeles County and 11, 10 in Los Angeles County, in the days leading up to the election.

There were also 22 drop boxes in Los Angeles County to deposit ballots.

Smith, D-Santa Clarita, was trying to become the second consecutive Democrat to win what had been a seat long held by Republicans until Hill’s 2018 victory over then-Rep. Steve Knight.

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Smith finished first in the March 3 primary with 36.2% of the vote while Garcia was second with 25.4%. Knight finished third with 17.2%.

Garcia is a graduate of Saugus High School and the U.S. Naval Academy. He was a Navy fighter pilot during the Iraq War and became an executive with the aerospace firm Raytheon Co.

Smith has lived in Santa Clarita for 39 years, graduating from Hart High School, then attending College of the Canyons and receiving a bachelor’s degree from UCLA.

Both candidates had presidential support. President Donald Trump tweeted his endorsement of Garcia April 20, tweeting that he “will be a tremendous fighter for the U.S. and the State of California,” and former President Barack Obama recorded a robocall on Smith’s behalf.

The 25th Congressional District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, and portions of the northern San Fernando Valley, Antelope Valley and eastern Ventura County.

The winner of Tuesday’s election will serve out the remaining seven-plus months of Hill’s term. Garcia and Smith will square off again in the November election for the chance to serve a full two-year term.

Hill announced her resignation Oct. 27 and it became effective Nov. 3, following the release of salacious photos online and allegations of an extramarital affair with a staff member.

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