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UPDATE: Strickland, Knight set to face off for Congressional seat

Posted: June 3, 2014 3:12 a.m.
Updated: June 4, 2014 9:50 a.m.
Tony Strickland greets supporters at his election night party at the Hyatt Regency Valencia in Valencia on Tuesday night. Signal photo by Dan Watson. Tony Strickland greets supporters at his election night party at the Hyatt Regency Valencia in Valencia on Tuesday night. Signal photo by Dan Watson.
Tony Strickland greets supporters at his election night party at the Hyatt Regency Valencia in Valencia on Tuesday night. Signal photo by Dan Watson.
Steve Knight. Steve Knight.
Steve Knight.

Regardless of the outcome of November’s general election, the Santa Clarita Valley will continue to be represented in Congress by a Republican, after a former state legislator and a current state legislator came out on top of the field in Tuesday’s primary election.

Former state legislator Tony Strickland, a Republican, and current state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, were the top two vote-getters in the primary race to replace Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, as the Santa Clarita Valley’s representative in Congress.

Both men said Wednesday that, despite the fact that the Congressional race will be a battle between two Republicans in November, their messages will likely remain the same.

Strickland, who has received McKeon’s endorsement in the race, paced the primary field with 14,573 votes with all precincts counted for 29.4 percent of the vote, according to information from the California Secretary of State’s office.

“The goal was to be in the top two, and not only was I in the top two, but I was the top vote-getter,” Strickland said Wednesday. “I feel really humbled by the outpouring of support and the trust I had from voters.”

Strickland said he does not anticipate his major campaign platforms, which include working toward American energy independence, changing much, if at all, between now and the general election.

“My message was clear: people want leadership,” Strickland said. “And I have said that too many elected officials are not challenging the country to come together as Americans.”

Knight staked his claim to a decisive hold on the second-place spot in the primary — tallying 14,016 votes for 28.3 percent of the vote with all precincts counted.

Knight was elected to the California Assembly and served on the Palmdale City Council prior to his 2012 election to the state Senate.

His state Senate district includes central and eastern portions of the Santa Clarita Valley.

“Our message isn’t going to change,” Knight said Wednesday. “We believe in lower taxes and that a limited government is the best way to go. We believe in a strong military, and those messages are still clear for us.”

Democrat Lee Rogers, who waged an unsuccessful 2012 campaign against McKeon, settled in at a relatively distant third in this year’s primary, setting the stage for an all-Republican general election.

“I can’t believe that in a district, which, according to the latest Secretary of State numbers, has only a 1 percent advantage for Republicans, there will be no Democrat for Congress on the ballot in November,” Rogers said in a statement released Wednesday. “Shocking, yes, but not the first time this has happened in California.”

Rogers tallied 11,107 votes for 22.4 percent of the vote with all precincts counted, putting him well behind Strickland and Knight.

Rogers recommended Democrats throw their support behind Knight, blasting Strickland as “a politician in search of a district.”

“Recommending a Republican for Congress may not sit well with some in my party, but I didn’t create the rules and I care too much about our district to let it fall to a dishonest carpetbagger who is interested only in himself, like Tony Strickland,” Rogers said. “Democrats will need a representative in Washington who can at least deliver good constituent services, in spite of the ideological differences.”

District change
In 2012, Strickland ran for a seat in the 26th Congressional District, losing to now-incumbent Democrat Julia Brownley.

Strickland initially filed paperwork indicating he was eyeing a rematch with Brownley, but later filed to run in the 25th Congressional District that has long been represented by McKeon. He has since been criticized for living outside the boundaries of the district he is running to represent.

“You’ve got to have skin in the game,” Knight said. “Skin in the game means you have a commitment to the district, and I can’t buy that he has any commitment to a district when he doesn’t have a commitment to buy a house here.”

Strickland said he has an extensive history with the district, including growing up in the Simi Valley area, and said Tuesday’s results show he has strong support in the district.

“It’s a matter of who is going to be the strongest leader for the community, and the voters said that I was,” Strickland said, referencing Tuesday’s results.

Strickland also largely shrugged off Rogers’ call for Democrats to support Knight.

“If Lee Rogers was able to convince Democrats to vote, he would be in the runoff,” Strickland said. “So I don’t think he can convince Democrats to vote for someone else when he couldn’t convince them to vote for himself.”

Potential spoiler
Perhaps contributing to Rogers’ showing was another Democrat: Lancaster resident and Air Force veteran Evan Thomas. With all precincts counted, Thomas was in fourth place in the primary field, pulling in 4,868 votes for 9.8 percent of the vote.

Rogers said Wednesday that he thinks Thomas played the role of spoiler in the race by splitting the Democratic vote.

Knight said he thinks Thomas took votes away from Rogers as well as himself.

Thomas could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Rogers said he is uncertain what his political future is, but that he is planning on spending some time with his family and going on vacation.

“Today, I’m really disappointed in the results, but it almost feels like I’ve been let out of jail and I can do the things I was not able to do while running for office,” Rogers said.

But for Knight and Strickland, the race continues.

“Now it’s my job to go out to all those voters that didn’t vote for me and try and get their support as well,” Strickland said.

“June 3rd is gone,” Knight said. “Bring on November.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney


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