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Republican Flips California House Seat as GOP Continues To Gain Ground

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Republican Michelle Steel defeated first-term Rep. Harley Rouda on Tuesday in a Southern California district, only the second time in more than two decades that a GOP candidate in the state has defeated an incumbent Democrat.

Rouda captured Orange County’s 48th District in 2018 from longtime Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, part of a Democratic sweep of seven House seats in California that year.

Steel said the vote this year showed the American dream “is alive and well in Orange County.” She vowed to fight for lower taxes, small businesses and their workers.

“I stand ready to work with both parties,” she said in a statement.

Steel won about 51 percent of the votes in a year when President Donald Trump was backed by about 33 percent of California voters.

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Steel, who heads the Orange County Board of Supervisors, benefited from the district’s Republican registration edge.

In addition to Steel’s victory, Republican candidates are leading in two other undecided races in Democratic-held districts.

Young Kim is running ahead of Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros in the 39th District, and former Republican Rep. David Valadao is leading Democratic Rep. TJ Cox in the 21st District.

In the 25th District north of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is narrowly trailing Democrat Christy Smith.

Are you surprised that this House seat flipped to Republicans?

Former Republican Rep. Darrell Issa captured the conservative-leaning 50th District, which was vacated earlier this year by GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter after he pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge.

Rouda indicated he would challenge Steel in 2022 and lamented the “toxicity” in politics that he said was threatening democracy.

“Politics that tears America apart and turns us against each other is unsustainable. We saw it firsthand in this election,” he said.

Orange County this year is one of the crucial House battlegrounds in California and the U.S.

Democrats seized four House districts in the county in 2018, placing a vast stretch of the Los Angeles metropolitan area under Democratic control in the U.S. House.

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Fred Whitaker, who heads the Republican Party of Orange County, said Steel’s victory “is the start of the Orange County comeback for Republicans.”

Steel, who is married to Republican National Committee member Shawn Steel, emphasized her work on the county board and longtime opposition to higher taxes, while also criticizing Democratic leadership in state government.


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