The path to the GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives appears to hinge on three California races. One of those races has been called by Decision Desk HQ. Michelle Steel maintains her seat in California 45 (CA-45), beating Democrat opponent Jay Chen by eight percentage points: 54 percent to 46 percent.
Decision Desk HQ projects Rep. Michelle Steel (R) wins re-election to the U.S. House in California’s 45th Congressional District.#DecisionMade: 8:34pm EST
— Decision Desk HQ (@DecisionDeskHQ) November 15, 2022
It wasn’t easy for the one-term incumbent and one of the first Korean-American women to serve in Congress. Steel originally represented CA-47, and wrested the district from Democrat incumbent Harley Rouda in 2020. When the lines in the district were redrawn earlier this year, Steel chose not to run against Democrat Katie Porter who now represented CA-47. Instead, she moved over to CA-45 which includes Little Saigon, home to the largest Vietnamese population in the United States.
Steel has come under fire for what Chen’s supporters considered “red-baiting.” Steel’s campaign has drawn connections between Chen and the Chinese Communist Party. Steel was also a co-author of the amicus brief in support of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. After Dobbs was decided, and Governor Gavin Newsom ramped up the already heated atmosphere surrounding pro-abortion activists, Chen used Steel’s pro-life stance and efforts to overturn Roe to hammer away at her support among women.
Chen released a new TV ad in his campaign that calls out Steel for her positions against the fundamental right of women to choose what to do with their own bodies.
“Michelle Steel knows that her politics are dangerous for everyday people,” said Chen. “National Republicans are targeting our fundamental rights and Congresswoman Steel will be a rubber stamp on a national abortion ban that would rip away Californians’ rights. Her views make her an outlier even in deep red Kansas, let alone California. Orange County residents deserve a representative who will protect their freedoms, not destroy them.”
An American of Taiwanese descent, Chen was positioned not only as an immigrant son but as a moderate progressive. Chen is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve as well as a small business owner. So, Chen could comfortably speak to the rising costs of goods and their impact on families as well as small businesses. But Chen also spoke to the progressive sacraments of abortion rights and free education for all. Chen’s more youthful energy, and status as a naturalized immigrant in a heavily Asian-American district served to cut into Steel’s base.
After the close of polls on November 8, Chen had a slight lead. Later in the week, Steel’s numbers began to improve and she moved ahead of Chen, maintaining the comfortable lead which ultimately led to her win.