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Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda concedes 48th Congressional District race to GOP challenger Michelle Steel

Michelle Steel has been elected as the new representative in California's 48th Congressional District.
Michelle Steel, the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, has been elected as the new representative in California’s 48th Congressional District.
(File Photo)

U.S. Rep. Harley Rouda conceded the hotly contested race for California’s 48th Congressional District seat to Republican challenger Michelle Steel on Tuesday.

The incumbent Rouda, a Democrat from Emerald Bay in Laguna Beach, trailed Steel by more than 7,000 votes as of Tuesday.

Steel, the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, had 199,133 votes, or 51.00% of the total. Rouda had 191,341 votes, or 49.00%.

Steel’s win represented a victory for the Republican Party in Orange County, which was once solidly red but has been purpling in recent years. Rouda was the first Democrat to win the seat, which was formerly held by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), in 2018.

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Steel, 65, will be one of the first Korean American women in U.S. Congress, along with incoming Marilyn Strickland, a Democrat from Washington who is of Korean American and Black heritage.

Steel posted a video to her Facebook page thanking her supporters and staff during her campaign.

“To the staff, volunteers, interns, supporters, citizens and constituents who voted for me, know that you weren’t voting for a person, but for the idea that the American Dream is alive and well in Orange County,” Steel said.

“Minorities who might not look like you or talk like you can come from humble beginnings and not only have a place in this Republican Party, but can be elected to Congress from the best district in the best state in the union. That’s what I will be taking with me to Washington, the notion that conservative ideas transcend gender, race, religion or nationality.”

Harley Rouda's bid for reelection to California's 48th Congressional District came up short.
Harley Rouda trailed Michelle Steel by more than 7,000 votes as of Tuesday.
(Courtesy of Harley Rouda)

Steel said that when she gets to Washington, she will be “a force for smaller government and lower taxes that you can count on.”

Rouda, 58, said in a statement that he was a productive new member of Congress because he worked with Republicans instead of demonizing them, and he did not give in to partisan politics.

“We ought to have a political system that is built on facts, rewards honesty and strengthens the bonds that tie us to each other, rather than ripping them to shreds,” Rouda said. “While one campaign ends today, another is just beginning. I look forward to having voters compare my opponent’s two years in Congress with my accomplishments on November 8, 2022.

“There is surely more work to do. Let’s do it together.”

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