On Friday, former Republican Assemblywoman Young Kim defeated Congressman Gil Cisneros (D-CA) by a razor-thin margin, winning back a Congressional seat taken by the Dems in 2018.
Kim beat Cisneros 172,253 to 168,108, a close one point difference, after a week and a half of vote counting. Cisneros, a former Navy veteran and shipping manager who ran for Congress after winning the California state lottery, had previously defeated Kim in a similarly close race in 2018, 52% to 48%. Despite many political experts expecting a Cisneros victory due to a large turnout by Democrats over the presidential election and voting down the party line, the GOP had a strong showing and benefited from Kim’s diverse appeal, Republican backlash in Orange County, thousands of laid-off area Disney employees angered by decisions from Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom to close theme parks, and Republicans once again gaining strength in the county.
“The voters have spoken, and I want to congratulate Young Kim on her victory and wish her nothing but success for the 39th District,” said Cisneros in a concession tweet. “I’m proud to have served my country in the U.S. Navy, and I’m proud to have served it again in Congress. It’s been the honor of a lifetime. CA39.”
The voters have spoken, and I want to congratulate @YoungKimCA on her victory and wish her nothing but success for the 39th District. I’m proud to have served my country in the U.S. Navy, and I’m proud to have served it again in Congress. It’s been the honor of a lifetime. #CA39
— Gil Cisneros (@GilCisnerosCA) November 14, 2020
Kim, in turn, accepted the win shortly after Cisneros’ concession.
“Thank you CA39! I look forward to serving you!,” exclaimed Kim on Friday via a tweet that included a video message to constituents.
— Young Kim (@YoungKimCA) November 14, 2020
Kim, a South Korean immigrant who entered the political arena of California last decade, will now join over a dozen Republicans in taking over House districts this election, including Congresswoman-elect Michelle Steel, who also won a close Orange County race earlier this week. Kim’s victory not only closes the party gap in the House of Representatives, but also greatly recedes the blue wave wave of 2018 in Southern California.
A close victory, good news for the GOP
“It was close. Really close,” noted Heath Becker, a New York-based political analyst who focused on swing districts during the 2020 race. “But she did it.
“For Republicans in California, this election went better than they could have hoped for. With Trump likely out and the state Senate and Assembly becoming a bit more blue, a gain in House seats for Republicans and taking back the Orange County stronghold, not to mention all those big Proposition decision that fell their way like Prop 22, proved that Conservatism and the GOP aren’t dead in California.
“And not only that, Republicans gained a lot more voters in terms of diversity. A lot of white voters, but gains in Asian voters, women voters, and Hispanic voters. Candidates were a bit more moderate in those crucial focus districts, and it paid off for almost every one of them.
“Also, Steel and Kim are both immigrants, and they won as Republicans. The Democrats, including Cisneros, had blasted them on immigration, but they won. I said this before, but this election gave the GOP in California hope for the first time in a long time. And if they start swinging the middle-class vote, the Hispanic vote, and the Asian vote more to the Republicans like they did this year, 2022 will be very interesting. They only stand to gain more right now, especially with 2022 mid-terms historically helping the other party more.”
“As for Cisneros, he’ll land on his feet. He’s a millionaire. But, like Rouda, he took the loss with grace. Can’t really ask for more than that.”