Katie Hill's vacated House seat in Santa Clarita attracts diverse field, including convicted former Trump adviser

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When former Rep. Katie Hill resigned last year over allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships with staffers, the special election to fill her seat set off a frenzy of interest from not just politicians, but those outside the district including a political commentator, even a convicted felon.

Republican Steve Knight, who lost to Hill, is trying to win back his seat.

"What happened to Congresswoman Hill and that whole situation was shocking," said Knight.

Knight, a veteran and former Los Angeles police officer, says he still believes he's the best person to serve the purple 25th District. Some believe Hill's win, which was part of the 2018 blue wave, was a referendum on President Donald Trump. Knight disagrees.

"I've watched President Trump over the past few years. his policies have been spot on," said Knight.

"With the unfortunate timing of her resignation, what I did start to see within the first 24 hours was a lot of outside interest in this race, and what I want is my community to be represented by someone with a long-term relationship here," said Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith.

The Democratic frontrunner in the race is Smith, who hasn't just been endorsed by Hill, but also by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and California Sen. Kamala Harris.

"We have got to get health care figured out in a meaningful way where it is more affordable and accessible to everyone. Climate change is here. Last year we saw two of the largest wildfire evacuations we've ever seen," said Smith.

There's over a dozen people running including Cenk Uygur, the political commentator who founded The Young Turks. Uygur, who doesn't live in the district, had his endorsement from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders revoked after he came under fire about past comments about women.

"The reason they elected Donald Trump was because he said, drain the swamp. He was lying, but it was an important lie. In my case, I actually mean it," Uygur said. "No one is talking about the corruption. When corporations give money to politicians, it's a bribe, it's a bribe. And I waited for people to say it, wonderful progressives who got elected, and still nobody is calling it what it is. I tell my audience all the time, if nobody else is willing to step up and do it, you raise your hand."

Another surprising person who raised his hand to run is Republican George Papadopoulos, who served 12 days in prison for making false statements to the FBI in connection with the Mueller investigation.

"You have a candidate, George Papadaopolous who is a national figure today, who is part of a very, very big political story, who has the trust in many ways of people in Washington who I would like to reach out to on day one to get things done," said Papadopolous.

Papadopoulos served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, but after he pleaded guilty, the president distanced himself calling Papadopoulos a low level volunteer proven to be a liar. Papadopoulos, who also doesn't live in the district, says he doesn't talk to Trump and that running for Congress has been a lifelong goal.

"People will call me a carpetbagger. My counter to that is I'm forced to listen, while if I had lived in the district for 30 years or so, I might feel, I don't want to use the word elitist, but I would feel maybe I know better than the voters," said Papadopoulos.

And another candidate Eyewitness News caught up with is Republican Mike Garcia, a veteran and businessman who also staunchly supports Trump.

"I absolutely do support this president. I think what this president has done for the nation over the course of the last three years is absolutely monumental and historic. Not only the economy and jobs at all-time highs and records, but also on the national security front," said Garcia.

The two top vote-getters in the primary will advance to the November general election.
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