The House races for the 41st and 45th California Congressional districts were called by multiple news outlets Tuesday, with Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Congresswoman Michelle Steel (R-CA) winning their respective districts by close margins.
The 41st and 45th districts were amongst the closest Congressional races heading into election day last week, and were also two of several needed by Republicans to take back control of the House. For nearly a week with the close vote counts and slow vote counting, both races remained up in the air.
In the 41st district, the incumbent Calvert faced Democratic lawyer Will Rollins in a closer than expected race. Due to redistricting, the usually solid (R) Inland Empire area had added in some blue enclaves. Many Los Angeles area residents moving eastward into the district in recent years also played a part in the Cook Political Report listing the district as “leaning Republican” rather than the usual more solid scores. However, the district still proved itself to still be largely Republican this election, with Calvert clinching the election on Tuesday with a 91,215-85,726, or 51.6%-48.4% vote margin with 80% of votes being tallied. The win also extended Calvert’s incumbency streak, with Calvert having been the area’s Congressional representative since being elected in 1992.
While many outlets, as well as election officials, called the race, Rollins did not concede the race early on Tuesday, insisting on waiting until the next round of results are released later on Tuesday night.
“Last night’s news was not what we hoped for,” said Rollins on Twitter. “We know we face an uphill climb but I’ve been adamant that the democratic process must play out. With many votes still outstanding, the next round of ballots released tonight will provide more insight on where this race stands. I am so grateful to the election workers who are doing this tough work, as well as the supporters who poured their energy into this campaign. You will hear more from me after tonight.”
1/ Last night's news was not what we hoped for. We know we face an uphill climb but I've been adamant that the democratic process must play out. With many votes still outstanding, the next round of ballots released tonight will provide more insight on where this race stands.
— Will Rollins (@WillRollinsCA) November 15, 2022
Calvert’s campaign, meanwhile retweeted messages of congratulations, claiming reelection victory.
— CAGOP (@CAGOP) November 15, 2022
Two more CA GOP Congressional victories
Nearby in the 45th district in Orange County, the race between Rep. Steel and Mt. San Antonio College Board of Trustees President Jay Chen was expected to be much closer. The race between Steel and Chen was noted nationally for the particularly vicious campaigns, as well as highlighting the growing role of Asian-Americans in politics. Chen was actually doing quite well in the race before a nationwide Republican candidate upswing paired with a scandal coming to light showing that Chen had supported a Chinese-backed institution threw him off.
Steel’s popularity subsequently soared, with both Cook and other outlets moving their predictions more and more for a Steel victory. On Tuesday, Steele was projected as the winner with 96,114 votes, or 53.8% of the vote against Chen’s 82,477, or 46.2% of the vote, with 78% of all ballots counted.
“I am humbled to continue to fight for this community in Congress,” tweeted Steel. “Thank you to the voters of CA45 for putting your trust in me. Let’s get to work.”
— Michelle Steel (@MichelleSteelCA) November 15, 2022
The victories of Calvert and Steel are being held up as helping define House races for Republicans to take back House control, by many political experts. In addition to being close races, both are also incumbents, meaning that a loss by one would have tipped the balance significantly.
“These races were more expected than some of the closer races to go the GOP’s way, but it doesn’t mean that the party isn’t sighing with relief over them either,” explained Gina DeSimone, a Washington-based analyst who focused on close Congressional races in Western states in 2022, in a Globe interview on Tuesday. “There’s still a bunch up for grabs, but these wins, particularly Steel’s, will really boost the Republicans. These races are showing that, even with Democratic favorable redistricting going on, the districts are staying red. The Kiley-Jones race in CA 3, Porter trying to get reelected in CA 47, the Garcia-Smith race outside of LA, Valadao, and Levin-Maryott in San Diego all now have eyes on them.”
“The Dems still have a chance at spoiling the House, but if California Republicans pull through on at least some of these, they’re going to help secure it. And you know that will just infuriate the Democrats. The reason they lose the House because of Californian races, plus a Republican from that state replacing a Democrat from that state as speaker. You can see why each side is fighting tooth and nail in California.”
Revised election results are expected to come in for California House races during the week.
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