On Tuesday, Congressman Harley Rouda (D-CA) conceded the 48th Congressional district election to Republican Michelle Steel.
Rouda and Steel had been in an a neck-to-neck race in Orange County, with Steel only being back three points in mid October. However, a strong Republican turnout, backlash from laid-off Disney employees living in the district over lockdowns ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom, and Steel’s diverse background all helped bring a push of support to Steel in the last week. After nearly a week of a back and forth voting total slowly being counted b OC election authorities, Steel pushed ahead by nearly 8,000 votes on Monday. With 96% of the vote in, this gave Steel a clear and insurmountable 199,133 to 191,341 lead on Monday, causing Rouda to concede.
“Thanks to the incredible energy brought by our thousands of grassroots volunteers, I was proud to be the first Democrat ever to represent CA 48. Serving the people here has been the honor of my life,” said Rouda on Tuesday via a Twitter post shortly before his official concession.
Thanks to the incredible energy brought by our thousands of grassroots volunteers, I was proud to be the first Democrat ever to represent #CA48.
Serving the people here has been the honor of my life. https://t.co/up1YVZTnuU
— Harley Rouda (@HarleyRouda) November 10, 2020
During his official announcement, Rouda noted his achievements in his lone congressional term, including his actions in trying to expand the Payment Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses following COVID-19 lockdowns nationwide.
“Thanks to the incredible energy brought by our thousands of grassroots volunteers, I was proud to be the first Democrat ever to represent California’s 48th Congressional District. Serving the people here has been the honor of my life, but the truth is, it’s never been about political parties for me,” added Rouda.
“It’s because we worked with Republicans instead of demonizing them and refused to give in to partisan politics. I thought that was the right thing to do. I still feel that way. We did not win this election. And while it isn’t the outcome we had hoped for, it’s never been more important for our leaders to hear the voice of the people, and to accept their judgment.”
Steel accepted his concession later on Tuesday, declaring victory via Twitter.
This victory has been hard-fought and hard-won, and I could not be more humbled to have your support nor more honored to serve our community in Congress. Now, let's get to work. #CA48 pic.twitter.com/5aVvsvABiw
— Michelle Steel (@MichelleSteelCA) November 10, 2020
“This victory has been hard-fought and hard-won, and I could not be more humbled to have your support nor more honored to serve our community in Congress,” tweeted Steel on Tuesday. “Now, let’s get to work. CA 48”
A big win for Steel, California Republicans, Congressional Republicans
Steel, the current Chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, will now join at least 9 other Republicans nationwide who had flipped districts and brought the party gap in Congress between the GOP and the Democrats to the closest it has been in years. Another Orange County Congressional race between Congressman Gil Cisneros (D-CA) and Young Kim is currently too close to call, but with Kim currently in the lead with 98% of the vote total in. Should Kim win, her victory along with Steel’s will bring the GOP House total even closer to the Democrats and will help the GOP take back Orange County even further in terms on Congressional representation.
“Steel’s victory was a big pick-me-up for the GOP,” explained Heath Becker, a New York-based political analyst who focused on swing districts during the 2020 race. “The Republicans wanted to take back Orange County, which they have partially done now. But they also wanted to show off that they can be diverse too. Steel is an immigrant, an Asian-American, and a woman, not to mention being married to Shawn Steel, one of the top Republicans in all of California. She was perfect for the district. And despite the Democrats banking on people voting against Trump to vote against all Republicans by association. It didn’t happen. In California of all states.”
“Her victory, along with other GOP gains in California and voting down most liberal-friendly propositions on election day, is giving the GOP in California hope. But even more than that, substantiated hope. If Kim can take the other seat, state Democrats are going to find themselves in a bind.”
“And I have to admit, the Globe predicting a win for her based partially on disaffected Disney voters, you guys pieced together that when big time analysts didn’t. A lot of signs in the election pointed to this being the case, especially among on the fence Asian-American voters there, so kudos.
“Anyway, Steel should be feeling pretty good about this. The GOP owes her. And hats off to Rouda too. He took this gracefully and thanked voters. Regardless of your political opinion of both of them, they both took classy approach to all of this after such a bitter race. I just think the Democrats are kicking themselves for not pushing more money from Porter to Rouda and Cisneros in the 39th.”
Should the totals stand in the likely recount, Steel is due to be sworn into office in January next year.