There was an interesting special election this week in California’s 25th congressional district.  Suburban California congressional races don’t normally merit attention in New Jersey, but this contest featured a fight over classification for independent contractors.

The Cook Political Report rates it as a swing district, but Hillary Clinton carried the district by 7 points in 2016, and Democrat Katie Hill defeated the Republican incumbent in 2018.  But Hill resigned over a campaign staffer scandal.  And the race between Democrat Assemblywoman Christy Smith and Republican Mike Garcia quickly focused on the merits of the highly controversial AB5 legislation which adopted a highly restrictive ABC test for independent contractors.  Assemblywoman Smith had supported AB5 in the legislature. 

That vote might have been a misstep.  Even in a race for federal office, it was the state legislation that got the spotlight, with Garcia claiming the law was responsible for a loss of some 70,000 jobs.  Garcia flipped the district, and as many political observers have noted, he might have the independent contract issue to thank.

This could be the second cautionary tale to emerge from California on the IC issue.  The New Jersey legislature has also considered legislation to restrict independent contractors and force gig economy workers into an employment business model.  But the economic chaos sparked by AB5 in California alerted New Jersey legislators to the likely consequences of imposing such restrictions on freelance workers.  It’s useful to see that such legislation can produce electoral consequences, too.