From left: Young Kim, Michelle Steel and Marilyn Strickland, pictured at new member orientation in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 15, are the first Korean American women elected to Congress. Kim and Steel are Republicans from Orange County and Strickland is a Democrat from Washington state. (Facebook)

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

SANTA ANA — Former Assemblymember Young Kim will be among two Republican House members from Orange County, both female immigrants from South Korea, when the 117th Congress convenes in January.

Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda) conceded to Kim after he fell behind by 4,145 votes in their rematch in the 39th Congressional District, according to figures released Friday by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Kim led 50.6% to 49.4% or 172,253 to 168,108 in the district, which runs from Walnut in the north to Chino Hills in the east, Hacienda Heights in the west and Fullerton in the south.

“Following the results of this election, I want to congratulate Congressman Gil Cisneros on a hard-fought race,” Kim said in a statement on Friday. “I want to thank him for his service to our country and to the 39th District.

“I would also like to thank everyone who spent countless hours volunteering, donated, or reached out to a friend or family member with our message. We would not be here without you and you were always the driving force propelling us forward. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I am honored by the trust you have put in me.

“Whoever you voted for in this election, I hope you know that regardless of any difference we may have, I will always work on your behalf and fight for you. Our community is such a wonderful place because we come together to look out for one another. I will take that spirit with me to represent you in Washington.

“Now that the election is over, I hope we can unite and move forward to address the issues that our nation faces. I look forward to working with both my Republican and Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives to work towards a better future for our community, state and nation.

“As an immigrant to America, I know that the promise of America is alive. America is a country where an immigrant girl from South Korea can rise to be your representative in the United States Congress. Thank you for your faith in me and let’s get to work for the 39th District.”

“My journey to Congress started four years ago when my wife, Jacki, and I knew there needed to be change after 2016,” Cisneros said on Friday. “Service has always been an integral part of my life. I’m proud to have served my country in the U.S. Navy and again in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Over the past two years, I’ve worked tirelessly to fight for the people of the 39th District — fighting to protect healthcare and those with pre-existing conditions, lowering drug prices, preserving the environment, championing common-sense gun safety, making education affordable, and supporting our veterans, servicemembers, and military families.

“I’m sorry I won’t be able to continue that work in Congress this January. I called to congratulate Young Kim on her victory. For the benefit of the district and the country, I wish her nothing but the best and hope she will stay true to her word and protect those with pre-existing conditions, work to lower prescription drug prices and reinstate the SALT deduction. I hope she will continue my willingness to reach across the aisle in order to get results, because her success is the 39th District’s success.”

The state and local tax deduction permits taxpayers who itemize when filing federal taxes to deduct certain taxes paid to state and local governments. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 22, 2017, capped it at $10,000 per year, consisting of property taxes plus state income or sales taxes, but not both.

Rep. Gil Cisneros

“I want to take a moment to thank all of my supporters who have been with me since Day One, and all those who joined over the past couple years,” Cisneros said. “We gave it our all every single day. A huge thank you to my wife and love of my life, Jacki, my sons, Christopher and Alexander, and all my family for having my back.

“As the son of a public school cafeteria worker and a Vietnam veteran, my parents could have never imagined their child being elected to Congress. I will take some time to reflect on my future and spend time with my family, but I guarantee you all that my commitment to service and my love for our country will remain strong. Service is in my blood, and I’ll continue every day to work to better my community.

“There’s a lot more work that needs to be done, and I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me. God bless everyone and God bless the United States of America.”

Kim has promised to work to ensure Americans have access to quality and affordable health care that can help them through the coronavirus pandemic, work with federal officials to minimize the damage of the pandemic and put in place guardrails to prevent a resurgence or future pandemic.

Kim has said she will work with her colleagues to study the early missteps responding to the pandemic and invest in emergency preparedness. She also said she will work on bipartisan legislation that invests in the economy, gives small businesses the resources they need to recover and brings jobs back quickly.

Kim has pledged to “find bipartisan solutions to fix our broken health care system,” “ensure our economy has the support it needs to bounce back stronger than ever,” “stand up against Sacramento-style policies that raise taxes, hurt small businesses and kill jobs” and “ensure we lessen the burden of taxes on struggling families and business to make life more affordable and allow our communities to thrive.”

Kim’s victory avenges her loss to Cisneros in 2018 when she was leading in the vote count and traveled to Washington, D.C., for orientation for newly elected House members, only to be overtaken by Cisneros in late-arriving ballots.

Cisneros won 51.6% to 48.4%, 126,002 to 118,391, in 2018 to succeed Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), who held the seat from 1993-2019. Kim had been a member of Royce’s staff.

Cisneros’ concession came three days Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Newport Beach) conceded defeat to Board of Supervisors Chair Michelle Steel in the coastal 48th Congressional District.

When Kim is sworn in, she will join Steel and Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.) as the first Korean American women in the House.

Kim was born in Incheon, South Korea on Oct. 18, 1962, and spent her childhood in Seoul. She and her family left South Korea in 1975, living first in Guam, where she finished junior high school, and then Hawaii, where she attended high school.

Kim has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from USC. She was a member of Royce’s staff for 21 years, both when he was a state senator and a congressman, as his community liaison and director of Asian affairs.

Kim defeated Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) in 2014, becoming the first Korean American Republican woman elected to the Legislature. She lost a rematch to Quirk-Silva in 2016.

Cisneros won a record $266 million in the Mega Millions lottery in 2010 after buying the ticket at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in Pico Rivera on his way home from jury duty, disregarding his wife’s desire that he get dinner from KFC.

Cisneros and his wife used their lottery winnings to establish The Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros Foundation, an organization committed to improving the level of Hispanic education.

The couple partnered with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and Pico Rivera to create Generation First Degree Pico Rivera, with the goal of putting a college degree in every Hispanic household in the city.

Cisneros has a bachelor’s degree in political science from George Washington University, and master’s degrees in business administration from Regis University and urban education policy from Brown University.

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