Republican Mike Garcia won the competitive special election to replace a Democrat in California’s 25th Congressional District, handing the GOP back one of the seats it lost in the 2018 midterms.

His challenger, Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith, conceded defeat Wednesday afternoon, even as thousands of mail-in ballots were still uncounted.

“While it’s critical that we ensure every vote is counted and recorded, we believe that the current tally shows Mike Garcia is the likely victor in the May 12 special election. As such, I’d like to congratulate him,” Smith said in a statement posted on her campaign’s Facebook page.

Garcia, a businessman and former Navy pilot, held a comfortable 12-point lead over Smith, with 76.3 percent of precincts reported at the time she conceded. Hours earlier, Republicans were already celebrating victory.

“Big Congressional win in California for Mike Garcia, taking back a seat from the Democrats. This is the first time in many years that a California Dem seat has flipped back to a Republican,” President Trump tweeted Wednesday.

Garcia’s win gives Republicans an opportunity to boast that they can claw back the suburban swing districts they lost in the 2018 midterms and have a shot at reclaiming the House majority in November. The outcome marked the first time in 22 years that Republicans picked up a seat in California.

Democrats argue that it was meaningless to compare a one-off special election voter base to the electorate that will turn out in the presidential election.

The diverse district that stretches across northern Los Angeles County and into parts of Ventura County had been held by a Republican for more than two decades before former congresswoman Katie Hill flipped it in 2018. A rising star, she was considered by political prognosticators to be a heavy favorite for reelection until a sex scandal led her to resign last fall. She immediately endorsed Smith to replace her.

“Mike’s honor and integrity will serve him well in Congress as he works to give his constituents a representative they can be proud of once again,” said Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee in a seeming reference to Hill’s exit. “I look forward to serving with Mike in Congress to push back against the liberal extremism perpetuated by Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats and deliver results for middle-class California families.”

Garcia won the job only until the end of the year. He and Smith are on the ballot again in November to earn a full two-year term in Congress. National Democrats, who anticipated this loss, say their chances are better in the fall, when more of their voters will come out in opposition to Trump.

“We’re confident that voters will reject Mike Garcia’s attacks on their health care and that Democrats will retake this seat in November,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, signaling how Democrats are hoping to once again win these districts with a health care-focused message.

Before Smith conceded, Garcia all but declared himself the victor in a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying he was “ready to go to work.”

Smith said it is on to November, calling the results “only one step in this process.”