Guide to California’s Congressional District 45 race: Rep. Michelle Steel vs. Jay Chen

Rep. Michelle Steel, left, and Jay Chen are shown in separate photos.
Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, left, and Democrat Jay Chen are competing to represent California’s 45th Congressional District.

The contentious congressional race between Republican Rep. Michelle Steel and Navy Reserve intelligence officer Jay Chen, a Democrat, is being played out in a district created to empower Asian American voters.

The inland 45th Congressional District straddling Los Angeles and Orange counties was drawn to bind together residents of Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and Indian descent to give those voters a stronger voice in the U.S. House of Representatives. The competition between the Korean American incumbent and Taiwanese American challenger has grown increasingly fraught.

California GOP Rep. Michelle Steel faces backlash from Asian American groups over ads depicting Democrat and Navy reservist Jay Chen as a communist sympathizer.

Oct. 29, 2022

Steel has sent out mailers in Vietnamese and English designed to inflame and to portray Chen as a communist sympathizer. One heavily doctored flier purports to show her rival holding the “Communist Manifesto” while teaching a class full of children in a room photoshopped to add communist and progressive imagery on the walls. A campaign video shows actors portraying Chinese Communist Party intelligence officers in a smoky room, delighting at Chen’s candidacy.

Chen has called the attacks “absurd” and pointed out that his grandmother fled communist China and that he holds a top-secret security clearance for his military work. Asian American/Pacific islander groups have accused Steel of trying to divide the community and of reinforcing old stereotypes of Asian Americas as untrustworthy “forever foreigners” at a time when hates crimes have increased.

Steel also accused her rival of mocking her accent when he said people needed “an interpreter to figure out exactly what she’s saying.” Chen responded with an op-ed titled “I didn’t mock Michelle Steel’s accent.” He said that as the son of Taiwanese immigrants he wouldn’t mock anyone’s accent and that he was referring to her “convoluted talking points.”


Who are the candidates?

Steel was born in Seoul and raised in South Korea, Japan and the United States.

Long active in GOP politics, Steel won a seat on the state Board of Equalization in 2006 and served eight years at the tax agency. She was elected to the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2014 and to Congress in 2020. She was one of the first three Korean American women elected to the House.

Steel opted to run in the new 45th District after her Seal Beach home was drawn into the same district as Democratic Rep. Katie Porter during the decennial redrawing of congressional district lines. (Members of Congress are not required to live in their districts.)

Where U.S. House candidates Republican Rep. Michelle Steel and Democrat Jay Chen stand on abortion, immigration, economy, healthcare, gun control.

Oct. 20, 2022

In Congress, Steel has been a fiscal and social conservative. She voted against a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, opposed legislation that would require the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage, and has voted against abortion access measures.

Steel did not vote on the certification of the 2020 presidential election because she had COVID-19. She voted against impeaching then-President Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection and against creating a bipartisan commission to investigate it.

Chen has served in his Navy career on the Korean peninsula and in the Middle East. He is a member of the Board of Trustees for Mt. San Antonio Community College and previously served on the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District Board of Education for eight years. He has worked as a management consultant and owned a local real estate business.

He unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2012, and withdrew from a 2018 congressional race because of Democratic concerns about splitting the vote.

He’s said his priorities in Congress would be getting inflation and prescription drug costs under control, codifying abortion protections and lowering costs for businesses and consumers.



Where is District 45?

The district includes Little Saigon and the cities of Artesia, Cerritos and Westminster.


Where Steel and Chen stand on key issues


Steel is a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, which, as introduced in the House, would ban abortions nationwide with no exceptions.

Of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 ruling that had guaranteed a federal right to abortion, Steel said, “I will always respect the decisions of the court. I do agree with their most recent decision that abortions should be left to the states.” She said she does “not believe in abortions except in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.”

Chen said the overturning of Roe “will lead to women dying and women going to jail. This is unacceptable. Women deserve the right to govern their own bodies.”


He called for legislation that “affirms a woman’s right to an abortion without undue interference. Reproductive rights must be protected and healthcare decisions should only be made between a woman and her doctor, not by politicians. We must codify Roe at the federal level and prevent Republicans from passing the nationwide abortion ban that they clamor for in the wake of Roe’s overturn.”


“I will continue to fight to lower taxes on American families. I have long been a taxpayer advocate, and Americans deserve to keep more of their hard-earned dollars,” Steel said, adding she would work on policies to “encourage job growth, and increase opportunities for all Americans.”

Steel voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden recently signed into law.

Chen said he grew up helping at his family’s small business and understands how such businesses struggle amid inflation. “In Congress I will prioritize passing the Bipartisan Innovation Act to lower costs for American consumers by strengthening our supply chains and investing in advanced domestic manufacturing.”


Past coverage

Where U.S. House candidates Republican Rep. Michelle Steel and Democrat Jay Chen stand on abortion, immigration, economy, healthcare, gun control.

Oct. 20, 2022


GOP Rep. Michelle Steel’s campaign doctored images to make Democratic rival Jay Chen appear to be a communist sympathizer.

Sept. 30, 2022

The race between Rep. Michelle Steel and Jay Chen in a congressional district drawn to empower Asian Americans now features charges of racism, sexism and red-baiting.

April 29, 2022

California Republicans hope inflation gives them an edge with independents in tight congressional races as Democrats fight to keep control of the House.

Oct. 16, 2022


How and where to vote

Ballots have been mailed to all 22 million registered voters in the state. Californians can return ballots by mail, drop them at collection boxes or turn them in at voting centers. They can also cast ballots early at voting centers or wait until Nov. 8 to vote at their neighborhood polling places.

Find out how to register, check voter status and vote here:

Here’s how to vote in the California midterm election, how to register, what to do if you didn’t get mail ballot or if you made a mistake on your ballot.

Nov. 1, 2022


For more election coverage

California voters head to the polls Nov. 8 to vote for U.S. senator, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, the state Board of Equalization, judges, members of Congress and the state Legislature. Local races in Los Angeles include mayor and county sheriff. There are also seven ballot propositions on the table.