Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda conceded his reelection race Tuesday afternoon but signaled he will run again for his Southern California seat in 2022.
“While one campaign ends today, another is just beginning,” Rouda said in a statement one week after Election Day. “I look forward to having voters compare my opponent’s two years in Congress with my accomplishments on November 8, 2022.”
Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel was leading Rouda 51 percent to 49 percent Tuesday afternoon when The Associated Press called the 48th District race. Steel’s victory makes her the seventh Republican woman to defeat a House Democrat.
Orange County was a GOP stronghold until 2016, when Hillary Clinton became the first Democratic presidential nominee since 1936 to win the county. President Donald Trump lost Orange County again this year, with President-elect Joe Biden leading by 9 points as of Tuesday.
It’s not clear if Biden carried the 48th District, which Clinton narrowly won by 2 points in 2016. Two years ago, Rouda was one of seven Democrats who flipped GOP-held seats in California, defeating longtime Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher.
Rouda, a former Republican himself, said Tuesday: “Serving the people here has been the honor of my life, but the truth is, it’s never been about political parties for me.”
Steel, a Korean immigrant, said her win demonstrated the diversity in the GOP.
“In this election, you weren’t simply voting for a person, but also for the idea that the American Dream is alive and well in Orange County,” she said. “This vote showed that minorities who may look or speak differently than most not only have a place in this Republican Party but can be elected to the United States Congress.”
Steel also makes history as one of the first Korean American women elected to Congress, joining Democrat Marilyn Strickland, who won the open seat for Washington’s 10th District.