Results: Republican Rep. Michelle Steel defeats Democrat Jay Chen in California's 45th Congressional District election

Steel Chen 2x1
Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images; Jay Chen's campaign; Insider
  • Rep. Michelle Steel ran against Democrat Jay Chen in California's 45th Congressional District.

  • The 45th District is home to Little Saigon, which contains the largest Vietnamese population in the nation.

  • The Vietnamese American vote was instrumental to Steel's success in 2020.

Republican Rep. Michelle Steel defeated Democrat Jay Chen in California's 45th Congressional District.

Polls closed in the state at 8 p.m. local time, or 11 p.m. EST.

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California's 45th Congressional District Candidates

Steel sits on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Education and Labor. In 2020, Steel, fellow California Republican Rep. Young Kim, and Democratic Rep. Marilyn Strickland of Washington made history as the first Korean American women ever elected to Congress.

Steel narrowly defeated incumbent Harley Rouda in that election by just over 2 percentage points, flipping a House seat Republicans lost in 2018.

Prior to her time in Congress, Steel, 67, served on the California State Board of Equalization, the nation's only publicly-elected tax board. Elected in 2006, she served more than nine million residents as the highest-ranking Korean American elected official in the country. In 2011, Steel was named vice chair of the board. After her tenure, she served for several years on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Chen, Steel's challenger, is a lieutenant commander in the US Navy Reserve and a small business owner. He also serves as president on the board of trustees for Mt. San Antonio College, a local community college located in the 38th District, east of the 45th.

Steel and Chen, who are both Asian American, battled in one of the most heavily Asian American districts in the country, where a quarter of eligible voters were Asian.

With just over one week left before election night, a political action committee that supports Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates pulled its endorsement of Steel, citing the "accusations, negative advertisement, and red baiting that are coming from the 45th congressional race," as the reason.

Steel's campaign had sent flyers to Orange County Vietnamese American voters — many of whom settled in the area after escaping from Communism —  that portrayed Chen as a Communist sympathizer.

Earlier in 2022, Chen got himself in hot water with some members of the Asian American community over comments he made that appeared to mock the South Korean-born congresswoman's accent. Insider also revealed that Chen failed to properly disclose investments he made in two pharmaceutical giants that manufacture COVID-19 vaccines.

Voting history for California's 45th Congressional District

California's 45th Congressional District straddles Los Angeles County and Orange County — the third largest in the state — and includes Little Saigon, home to the largest Vietnamese population in the United States.

Vietnamese American voters, on balance a conservative voting bloc, were instrumental to Steel's success in 2020. On a national scale, the Vietnamese American voting bloc was the only one of the six biggest Asian groups — Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese — that was under 50% for Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

After the district lines were finalized in the decennial redistricting process following the 2020 Census, Steel announced she would switch districts to run in the 45th District.

Had Steel stayed in her coastal district, the new 47th, she would have had to face Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, one of the most powerful fundraisers in the House. The new 45th District, which includes more middle and working-class areas, as well as large immigrant and refugee communities, was a sharp contrast to her old political turf which was conservative, wealthy, and 70% white.

The money race

According to OpenSecrets, Steel raised $6.7 million, spent $5.8 million, and had about $1 million on hand, as of October 19. Her opponent, Chen, raised $4.5 million, spent $4.2 million, and had about $429,000 cash on hand.

As of early November 2022, several dozen super PACs, national party committees, politically active nonprofits, and other non-candidate groups had together spent more than $5.7 million to advocate for or against candidates in this race, including during the race's primary phase. The pro-Republican Congressional Leadership Fund alone accounted for more than half of that spending, with the National Republican Congressional Committee accounting for much of the rest.

What experts say

The race between Steel and Chen was rated as "lean Republican" by Inside Elections, "lean Republican" by The Cook Political Report, and "leans Republican" by Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Read the original article on Business Insider