Garden Grove councilwoman announces congressional bid against Rep. Michelle Steel

Kim Nguyen, of Garden Grove, stands next to the Edna Park bridge in Santa Ana.
Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Nguyen stands next to one of her favorite structures, the Edna Park bridge in Santa Ana, which brings back good memories for her. She announced this week she will be running for California’s 45th Congressional District in 2024.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Kim Bernice Nguyen, a member of the Garden Grove City Council, will seek to take Rep. Michelle Steel’s seat representing California’s 45th Congressional District, she announced Wednesday.

Nguyen, a Democrat, is the first to announce her candidacy for the race in 2024. Following recent redistricting, the district spans parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties and includes Garden Grove, Westminster, Cerritos, Fountain Valley, Buena Park, Fullerton, Placentia and Brea.

Steel, a Republican, recently won her second term over Democratic competitor Jay Chen with 53.6% of the votes in the 2022 midterm elections, according to the Orange County Registrar of Voters’ Office.


Chen has not yet announced if he plans on running for office again next year.

“The response has just been overwhelmingly positive. I am so excited. People are hungry for this. People are excited to see me run. The joke is that I couldn’t have been better made in a lab. I’m half Mexican and half Vietnamese,” Nguyen said, laughing. “I think this is an excellent opportunity to unify the [Asian American Pacific Islander] and Latino communities to take back this seat and prioritize our voices. I tried to do that in Garden Grove, and I think we’ve made good progress.”

According to the California Target Book, the voting population in the 45th district is 35.6% white, 23% Latino, 2.9% Black and 36.9% Asian.

Nguyen, 31, said while she encompasses a good portion of the racial demographics that make up the district, she is “hyper-focused” on the issues — among them housing, education and healthcare.

“I think people are excited to see a young person step up to the plate. I’m not rich; I can’t self-fund. I live the [same] everyday experience as these residents. I was a renter up until last year and it was close to impossible to live in my own district that I represent as a councilwoman,” she continued. “Growing up as I did, all of my experiences combined are so far and wide and are relatable to the people in this district and I am hoping they will entrust me to represent them in Congress.”

Nguyen was elected to the Garden Grove City Council in 2016. She previously ran for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors in District 2, which includes Santa Ana and parts of Anaheim, Garden Grove, Orange and Tustin, but lost to Vicente Sarmiento, who garnered 51.7% of the votes.

Asked why she announced early, Nguyen said she felt it was important to get her name out front and center to build support.

“I’m not delusional. [Steel] is a force to be reckoned with, but so am I ... I know how much I can walk, how much call time and how invested I am in this seat, and I’m ready to go, roll up my sleeves and get to work,” Nguyen said.

Republican Party of Orange County chair Fred Whitaker did not respond to a request for comment, but Democratic Party of Orange County chair Ada Briceño said Wednesday the district is important and the party would need to work hard to see it flip in its favor.

“I’m very excited to see the Democrats that are lining up to run for that seat. I have a lot of respect for Kim Nguyen and the work that she has done,” said Briceño. “I know there are other candidates as well that are going to be announcing, running, and I’m looking forward to seeing the field and rooting for everybody on our team.”

In a statement, Steel campaign spokesman Lance Trover said Steel’s voting record revealed “common sense solutions, putting people before politics and being a strong voice against the D.C. status quo is why she receives support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

“Southern California voters know her record of fighting for lower taxes, standing up to China and ensuring everyone has a shot at the American dream is why she was resoundingly reelected in 2022 and will be again in 2024.”

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