The 45th District anchored in Orange County was specifically drawn to give Asian Americans, who comprise the largest group in the district, a stronger voice on Capitol Hill. It has a Democratic registration edge and includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese American community.
The fight for the seat has evolved into a hostile confrontation between Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, a South Korean immigrant looking for a second term in Congress, and Democrat Jay Chen, a Navy reservist and the son of immigrants from Taiwan.
Both have made inflation and hate crimes against Asian Americans key issues. They’ve also kept up steady attacks against each other. Chen’s advertising depicts Steel as an extremist who would threaten abortion rights, while Republicans accused Chen of “racism” after he told supporters an “interpreter” was needed to understand Steel’s remarks, arguing that Chen was mocking her accented English.
Chen has said he was referring to “convoluted talking points” that he said Steel uses to sidestep issues, not her accent. Steel has also distributed flyers depicting Chen as a communist sympathizer, while Chen has said his grandmother fled China to escape communist rule.
The race is being watched nationally for what it will say about the preferences of the Asian community.