Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

SANTA ANA — Two Republican challengers were holding slim leads over Orange County Democratic House members Thursday as the GOP looks to regain a congressional foothold in the once-decidedly conservative county.

Michelle Steel and Young Kim

The races remained much too close to call, with the results susceptible to change as county election officials continue tabulating votes from Tuesday’s election. As of Thursday evening, the Orange County Registrar of Voters was reporting a total of 175,516 ballots that still need to be tallied.

Mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day can also be received as late as Nov. 20 and still be counted, under state law.

It’s unknown how many of those outstanding ballots are from the closely contested districts.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said about 63,000 votes were counted, and 1,600 new ballots arrived in the mail Thursday.

As of Thursday, Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel led Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Newport Beach) by 4,774 votes in the coastal 48th District. Steel had 50.67% of the vote to Rouda’s 49.33%, or 179,452 votes to 174,678.

Rouda campaigned on his achievements in Congress, insisting he can work across the aisle to reach consensus agreements. He said he wants to “continue our work to lower prescription drug costs, protect our coastline, and stand up to the insiders and special interests that run Washington.”

Steel said during her campaign she was running to provide a “strong voice in Washington, D.C., who will honor promises made and stand up for us and our values.”

She pointed to her work on the Board of Supervisors, saying she fought higher taxes while working to reduce traffic congestion and “ensuring our bays and coastlines are clean.”

Meanwhile, former Assemblymember Young Kim led Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda) by 2,497 votes, 50.4% to 49.6%, in the race to represent the 39th Congressional District, which consists of portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Kim had 146,297 votes and Cisneros 143,800.

The race is a rematch of 2018, when Cisneros defeated former Rep. Ed Royce’s protege.

Two years ago, Kim was leading and even traveled to Washington, D.C., for orientation for newly elected House members, only to be overtaken by Cisneros in late-arriving ballots.

If Steel and Kim are successful, the Democratic majority in the House will be reduced and Asian American representation in California’s congressional delegation will be increased. They would be the first Korean American women in Congress from California.

The distinction of first Korean American woman elected to Congress belongs to Democrat Marilyn Strickland of Washington’s 10th Congressional District, who is also the first Black congressional representative for the Pacific Northwest. The former Tacoma mayor was born in Seoul.

Currently, the only Korean American member of Congress is Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.).

In other local congressional races:

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) was re-elected in the 27th District with 182,308 votes (70.6%) to Republican Johnny Nalbandian’s 75,880 (29.4%). Chu, who is chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, has served since 2009.

The district comprises parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties and covers much of the San Gabriel Foothills. Communities in the district include Alhambra, Altadena, Arcadia, Bradbury, Claremont, East Pasadena, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Antonio Heights, San Gabriel, San Marino, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, and Temple City; most of Glendora and Pasadena; and parts of Monrovia and Upland.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) was re-elected in District 33 with 221,298 votes (68.7%) to Republican James Bradley’s 100,689 (31.3%). Lieu has been in office since 2015.

The district includes cities, communities, and districts on the west side of Los Angeles, the South Bay beach cities including portions of Torrance and the entire Palos Verdes Peninsula within Los Angeles County. They include Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Calabasas, El Segundo, Fairfax District (Los Angeles), Hermosa Beach, Holmby Hills, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Palos Verdes Estates, Playa del Rey, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Santa Monica, Santa Monica Mountains communities and parks, Topanga, Torrance (90503 and 90505 zip codes), UCLA, Venice and Westwood.

In a race between two Democrats in District 34, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) was ahead of David Kim, 84,056 (52.7%) to 75,334 (47.3%). Kim is an immigration attorney and neighborhood council board member.

The district is almost entirely within the City of Los Angeles and includes the following neighborhoods in Central, East and Northeast Los Angeles: Boyle Heights, Chinatown, City Terrace, Cypress Park, Downtown, Eagle Rock,
El Sereno, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Koreatown, Little Bangladesh, Little Tokyo, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills, Mount Washington, and Westlake.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) was re-elected in District 41 with 67,834 votes (64.2%) to Republican Aja Yadran Smith’s 37,856 (35.8%). Takano, who has been in office since 2013, was the first openly gay person of Asian descent in Congress.

The district includes the cities of Moreno Valley, Perris, and Riverside, located in the Inland Empire region.

Elsewhere in California:

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) was re-elected in District 6 with 107,316 (75.9%) to Republican Chris Bish’s 34,150 (24.1%). Matsui has served in the House since 2005, when she succeeded her late husband, Rep. Robert Matsui.

The district encompasses the city of Sacramento and some of its suburbs. It consists of parts of Sacramento and Yolo counties.

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Sacramento) was re-elected in District 7 with 116,437 votes (61%) to Republican Buzz Patterson’s 74,436 (39%). Bera, who is also a physician, has been in office since 2013.

The district encompasses most of the eastern and southern suburbs of Sacramento, including Elk Grove, Folsom, and Rancho Cordova. It is entirely within Sacramento County.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Santa Clara), in a contest between two Indian Americans, was re-elected in District 17 with 137,683 votes (74%) to Republican engineer and businessman Ritesh Tandon’s 48,428 (26%). Khanna has been in office since 2017. The seat was previously held by Democrat Mike Honda.

The district is located in the South Bay and East Bay regions of the San Francisco Bay Area. It includes parts of Alameda County and Santa Clara County and encompasses the cities of Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Newark, the majority of Fremont, and the northernmost part of San Jose. It also includes Santa Clara University and the corporate headquarters of Apple Inc, Intel Corp., and Yahoo. It is the only majority-Asian district in the U.S. outside of Hawaii.

Rep. TJ Cox (D-Fresno), seeking a second term in District 21, was behind Republican challenger David Valadao, 54,794 (48.2%) to 58,827 (51.8%). The two ran against each other in 2018.

Located in the San Joaquin Valley, the district includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Kern, and Tulare counties. Cities in the district include Coalinga, Delano, Hanford, and part of Bakersfield.


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