Republican Party of Orange County announced on Tuesday that they would be endorsing Congresswoman Michelle Steel (R-CA) for the 45th Congressional District seat in 2024, solidifying what will likely be the race next year following Democratic Garden Grove City Councilwoman Kim Nguyen declaring her candidacy late last month.
For the last month, candidates for House races across California have been declaring unusually early, starting campaigns 22 or 21 months ahead of the 2024 November General election. These early declarations have largely been sparked off by by Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) announcing last month that she would be running for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) next year. A flurry of other members of Congress, including Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) also came into the race as a result, with many likely to join soon.
This had the domino effect of their House seats now being open for 2024, including Porter’s extremely vulnerable House seat in Orange County. As a result, many prominent Democratic and Republican lawmakers went into House races early to get an early advantage. Porter’s seat is currently a three-way race for the Primary early next year, while Schiff’s seat is turning into a free-for-all for any Democrat interested in running for Congress in his LA area district. With those races intensifying, they, in turn, influenced many lawmakers to declare early in many districts, in particular battleground districts and districts where the incumbent is likely to either retire or run for higher office.
The 45th Congressional District, which spans through the heart of Orange County while also covering small parts of LA County, was one of the battleground districts seeing early election activity. While the district leaned Democratic early last year and had narrowly voted for Biden with 53% of the vote in 2020, this quickly changed in the District. Steel beat Democratic opponent Jay Chen by a wide 52.4%-47.6% margin in November, with 2023 forecasts now showing the district leaning Republican.
However, with the district still being close for the Democrats to take back, Garden Grove City Councilwoman Kim Nguyen entered the race in late January.
“The response has just been overwhelmingly positive. I am so excited. People are hungry for this. People are excited to see me run,” said Nguyen. “The joke is that I couldn’t have been better made in a lab. I’m half Mexican and half Vietnamese. I think this is an excellent opportunity to unify the Asian American Pacific Islander and Latino communities to take back this seat and prioritize our voices. I tried to do that in Garden Grove, and I think we’ve made good progress.”
With Chen also possibly running again, Steel has not given any response to her district being targeted early. And since she has not given official word yet, many organizations have put in endorsements on her behalf in the ensuing weeks to keep her in the running, as well as maintain support in the on-the-fence for the GOP district.
Steel gets major endorsement for 2024 race
This led to the Republican Party of Orange County’s decision on Tuesday to endorse Steel for Congress in 2024, all but ensuring she gets the GOP nod against the main Democratic opponent.
“Today, the Republican Party of Orange County announced their endorsement of Congresswoman Michelle Steel for reelection in California’s 45th Congressional District,” said the announcement on Tuesday. “In 2020, Steel made history as one of the first Korean Americans elected to Congress. After a decisive reelection in 2022 in one of the most diverse congressional districts in the country, Steel is seeking a third term in Congress to continue her work of standing up for working class families.
“In Congress, Steel has established a proven track record of lowering taxes, promoting policies that would bolster the economy and create jobs, and standing up to Communist China. She has introduced and supported multiple pieces of legislation to deter the threats China imposes on U.S. national security, and serves on the Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. Steel has also long been a taxpayer advocate, serving on the Ways and Means committee and working diligently to slow inflation and lower the burden of high taxes on working class families.”
OCGOP Chairman Fred Whitaker added, “The Republican Party of Orange County proudly supports Congresswoman Michelle Steel. Whether she’s fighting for lower taxes, getting our economy back-on-track, or standing up to the CCP, Congresswoman Steel is a strong voice in Congress, fighting each and every day for the voters of her district.”
Experts noted that, in lieu of official announcements, political parties and other organizations have been making similar announcements across California and other states to combat against early candidacies.
“The OCGOP and Steel wasn’t a surprise,” explained Southern California pollster Melanie Lopez-Raines to the Globe on Wednesday. “Everyone is still rushing to get in early and stake out a good claim in the elections. If the candidates themselves aren’t doing it, especially incumbents, then the parties are endorsing them, or other groups are. There’s going to be a lot of close races next year, and it is already showing.”
Official 2024 run announcements from steel and other candidates are expected in the coming months.
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