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Rep. Steve Knight hit with attack ad in Los Angeles County congressional race

The attack ads began Monday in one of the state's most closely watched congressional races as Democrat Bryan Caforio's campaign launched a TV spot criticizing Republican Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) over his opposition to abortion.

The ad features a newspaper headline from when House Republicans voted last September to defund Planned Parenthood. It then cuts to a clip of Knight saying: "I am pro-life. I don't make exception."

Some Republicans oppose abortion but make exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when a mother's life is at risk. Not Knight, who represents the 25th Congressional District stretching from the Antelope Valley west to Santa Clarita and Simi Valley.

“I am a pro-life candidate. I make no exception. I don’t have any of those 3 that a lot of my other Republicans have,” he said in an interview in December. 

Knight has emphasized his antiabortion stance since he won the seat in 2014. That race pitted Knight against fellow Republican and former state legislator Tony Strickland.

This time Knight is going up against Caforio, an attorney and first time candidate who moved to the district shortly before declaring his run last fall

Caforio's campaign would not disclose the size of the ad buy but said the spot will air on cable television in the Los Angeles media market and also run as part of "a targeted digital buy." His campaign launched its first ad, a biographical short, at the end of August.

Knight responded to the ad in a statement.

"I'm a father of two and my wife is a NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] nurse who sees every day just how precious and fragile life is," he said. "I am pro life, and a tireless advocate for a range of women's health issues, like protecting pregnant women from the Zika virus and supporting women in the military who have suffered sexual trauma, and I will continue to fight for these priorities in Congress."

The attacks are likely to continue: national Democrats have identified Knight's seat as a prime pickup opportunity that could move them closer to reclaiming a majority in the House.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report called Knight "the most vulnerable incumbent in California" this summer when the number of registered voters identifying as Democrats in the district surpassed those belonging to the Republican Party.

There were 14,000 more registered Republican voters than Democrats in the district in 2012. That year, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district by two percentage points.

Democrats now have a 4,564 voter advantage among registered voters — a single percentage point lead — while about a fifth of voters in the district have no party preference, according to the secretary of state.

Caforio has been hustling for dollars, including using a trip by vice presidential pick Mike Pence to the district to raise funds.

The campaign said he raised about $19,000 off the visit.

Knight's campaign had $630,935 in the bank as of June 30. Caforio had $137,667.

6:00 p.m.: This post was updated with a response from the Knight campaign.

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