Republican Michelle Steel Wins CA-48, Defeating First-Time Incumbent Harley Rouda

AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File

Another critical House race has been called for the GOP. California District 48 Republican candidate Michelle Steel beat incumbent Democrat Harley Rouda, 50.9 to 49.1 with 95 percent of precincts reporting according to the Hill.

Rouda conceded today.

This was one of the tight California races that I wrote about last week:

“California District 48 has Republican Michelle Steel leading incumbent Democrat Harley Rouda by less than 7,000 votes. Thanks to the 2018 ballot harvesting, Rouda defeated then-Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher to take the seat, so a win by Steel would flip the seat back to Red. It would also do more damage to Speaker Pelosi’s majority. As the absentee ballots are counted and rolled in, we’ll see whether they favor Steel or Rouda.”

The Hill disingenuously framed Steel’s campaign and subsequent win on an anti-mask stance in the last days of the campaign.

“One major point of division heading into Election Day was the battle over masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Steel took to blasting mandates to wear masks in the area and accusing Rouda of politicizing the pandemic in an area where anti-mask sentiment is strong, while Rouda attacked her for promoting a dangerous position amid a global fight against the disease.”

More accurately, Harley Rouda was hoisted on his own virtue-signaling petard. Rouda attempted to pander to the heavily Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean constituency of his district by painting the Trump administration as racist and xenophobic. The California Globe uncovered that Rouda belonged to a fraternity that held Vietnam-themed Mekong Delta parties which were considered offensive. Rouda never responded to this charge.

Rouda’s campaign was accused of racism again when the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee referred to Steel’s husband as “Michelle Steel’s ‘shady husband’” in a news release, after the Wall Street Journal reported on allegations of influence peddling involving husband Shawn Steel, who is an RNC official.

This was not a good look on Rouda, particularly with the steep rise in hate crimes in Orange County.

Rouda’s business dealings are riddled with tax issues and liens. According to the Washington Free Beacon, Rouda, who claims healthcare is a right, canceled health benefits for employees at one of his holdings:

“Rep. Harley Rouda (D., Calif.), who has called health care “a right for every American” amid a tight reelection bid, cut health care benefits for employees of his real estate company in 2013, a former staff member told the Washington Free Beacon.

“Rouda took control of his late father’s real estate agency, HER Realtors, in October 2012. Months later, the California Democrat rescinded health care coverage for workers at the agency, according to the longtime former employee.”

The Beacon also reports Rouda cut 401(k) holdings for his employees.

Finally, Rouda voted for the PRO Act, which is the national version of AB5, the California law that has made independent contractor work illegal. The ravages the law has caused to professions and income within the state during a pandemic has not yet been calculated, but the fact that Rouda was a “YES” vote to the national model no doubt factored into votes against him.

Steel, 65, is a former State Board of Equalization and Orange County Board of Supervisors member. She was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S.

Steel received her Bachelors from Pepperdine University and received an MBA from USC, becoming a businesswoman and taxpayer advocate. Last year, she was appointed by President Trump as the co-chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Steel will be the second Korean-American and 13th GOP woman to attain a House of Representatives seat, adding to the diversity gains of women and minorities for the Republican Party, and cutting into the Democrat majority in the House.

Steel thanked her constituents with this beautiful and inclusive message for all Americans.