Steel wins hotly contested OC congressional race

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SANTA ANA, Calif. — The Republican Party reclaimed at least one congressional seat in Orange County Nov. 10, with first-term Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda conceding defeat to Michelle Steel in the closely contested race in the 48th District.

With vote-counting continuing from the Nov. 3 election, Steel – the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors — kept expanding her narrow lead, creating a gap that Rouda could not overcome.

Both Steel and Young Kim were seeking to be the first Korean American women in Congress, but they were beaten to it by Marilyn Strickland in Washington state, who was declared a winner earlier in the week.

Steel declared victory, acknowledging that “Our government is once again divided, but I stand ready to work with both parties to do what’s best for the American people, including getting our economy moving again.

“In this election, you weren’t simply voting for a person, but also for the idea that the American Dream is alive and well in Orange County. This vote showed that minorities who may look or speak differently than most not only have a place in this Republican Party but can be elected to the United States Congress,” she added. Steel vowed to “fight for lower taxes, help our small business and their workers and defeat the coronavirus.”

She said Rouda ran a “spirited campaign, and I thank him for his service.”

Rouda had conceded the race earlier Nov. 10. “We did not win this election,” he said. “And while it isn’t the outcome we had hoped for, it’s never been more important for our leaders to hear the voice of the people, and to accept their judgment. I do.”

By the evening of Nov. 10, Steel’s lead increased to 7,792 votes, 199,133-191,341, 51%-49%, according to figures released by the Secretary of State’s Office.

The 48th District has traditionally been a Republican stronghold. Rouda won the seat for the Democratic Party in 2018 when he defeated then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher with 53.6% of the vote. That election saw Democrats sweep Orange County’s congressional seats.

Rohrabacher had served in the House since 1989.

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