This is the third in a series of blog posts about the seven California Republicans who voted to repeal Obamacare and who represent districts Hillary Clinton carried. (See previous entries here and here.) We’re highlighting them in order of their distance from the Bay Area, because if we’re really going to take one giant leap backward for humankind, we should keep our eyes trained on the legislators who gave us the shove.
Steve Knight represents California’s 25th district, which includes much of northern Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County. The reliably Republican cities of Palmdale and Lancaster are there, as are stereotypically right-wing exurbs like Simi Valley. Six Flags Magic Mountain, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and that horrible Valero on Interstate 5 where gas costs a dollar more than everywhere else are all there, too.
But if all that sounds like CA-25 is a stridently conservative district, it’s not. In 2016, it swung sharply away from its previous Republican tilt. Mitt Romney won it 50-48, but Hillary won it 50-44, which is an eight point shift to the Democrats.
Knight, however, is a reliably conservative legislator: He’s strongly anti-choice, opposed to regulating carbon dioxide emissions, called Social Security a “bad idea,” and he seems to be an anti-vaxxer. He wants to let federal contractors discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. During his time in the state legislature, he was one of only three California lawmakers to vote against the barring sale of Confederate flags in gift shops. (I mean, that’s just straight-up racism right there. This isn’t Alabama, where you can almost-plausibly hide behind the fig leaf of “heritage.”) And when it came to another no-brainer, opposing Trump’s ill-conceived Muslim ban, Knight issued a statement so murky and evasive you could feel the sweat beading up on his brow.
Knight also has a face that’s, well, a little on the punchable side. Not quite to the extent of former Sen. Rick Santorum, but definitely more punchable than, say, Jason Sudeikis — and it’s occasionally hard to look at Sudeikis for long without one’s fingers curling into a quivering ball. If you’re tensing up, here are two redeeming qualities Knight possesses: He wants to make it easier for women to breast-feed at the airport, and he cosponsored a bill to rename a Bakersfield post office after Merle Haggard.
Otherwise, though, he kinda sucks. Remember the Knight Initiative (aka Prop. 22) from 2000, California’s first foray into unconstitutional bans on same-sex marriage? Steve Knight didn’t write it, but his father — state senator Pete Knight — did. And because of course this would be the case, Pete Knight’s other son, Steve’s brother David, is gay and got married in San Francisco during the brief window in 2004 when that was happening. That episode tore the family apart, but Steve Knight later supported Prop. 8 anyway, making him one of those true-believer homophobes who doesn’t even reconsider the issue even after it affects his own flesh and blood.
And before arriving in Congress, he held the same office his father — who was also mayor of Palmdale in the ’80s — did. Inherited name recognition likely pads Knight’s electoral margins, and he ran nine points ahead of Hillary Clinton (winning 53-47) to obtain a second term last November against a candidate widely seen as a carpetbagger. In other words, a better challenger plus the shifting demographics of the district could make Knight a part of the GOP’s soft underbelly in 2018. The L.A. Times seems to think so.
When it came to the American Health Care Act — which The New Yorker called “moral travesty, a betrayal of millions of vulnerable Americans” and “a suicide pact” — Knight definitely did not vote in line with his constituents wishes, either. Analyzing an earlier draft of the repeal bill, FiveThirtyEight determined that only 10 percent CA-25 voters “strongly supports” it, while 40 percent “strongly opposed it.” And he’s already hearing about it from enraged constituents.
Meanwhile, it’s been a couple days since Paul Ryan executed whatever parliamentary ninja move it took to pass this beast. All eyes are on the Senate, which appears to be in no hurry to a) adopt the House bill by voice vote and get the whole thing over with or b) come up with its own version. The GOP needs 50 of its 52-member caucus to say yes to the final bill, and two lady senators look like they could very well be dissenters. You’d think that would get Mitch McConnell to appoint them to the committee tasked with putting the legislation together, but nope: the 13-member panel is all-male. (As Quartz put it, it’s got “Three Johns, two Mikes, no women.”) It’s entirely possible that Knight, who sat on the fence until the last minute, might secretly be hoping repeal dies in the upper chamber.
The House is currently in recess. Knight and the rest of his venal cohort can choose to be accountable to their voters at town halls, or they can go radio-silent. Either way, tell him how you really feel at 202-225-1956 — and definitely resist the urge to punch him in the face, ’cause that won’t solve anything.