O.C. Supervisor Michelle Steel to challenge Rep. Harley Rouda in 2020 election


Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel announced Thursday that she will challenge first-term U.S. Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) in the 2020 election for the 48th Congressional District seat.

Rouda’s victory in the district last year was part of a wave of local Democratic victories that helped the party retake control of the House.

“Washington, D.C., has continuously failed us, and now more than ever people believe the political system is broken,” Steel said in a statement. “I’m running to bring common-sense leadership to Congress and hold our leaders accountable so that we can get our country back on track.”


Steel, a Republican who lives in Seal Beach, represents the 2nd District on the Board of Supervisors, including Costa Mesa, part of Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. She has held the seat since 2014.

In November’s election, Rouda toppled long-serving Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) in the GOP-leaning 48th District, which includes Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. Rouda’s campaign said he was elected because district voters wanted change.

Last week, Steel, a Korean American, told Korean media in a news conference at the Korean American Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles that she intended to run in the 48th District, according to a report by the Orange County Register.

A statement posted on Rouda’s campaign website criticized Steel for stating her intent “before a group of her Los Angeles business supporters” and highlighted her ties to President Trump.

Republicans hold an eight-point registration edge in the 48th District, but the president is largely unpopular in the heavily Democratic state and lost the Orange County vote in the 2016 presidential election to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“This is not the time to elect someone who will stand with Donald Trump as he pretends climate change isn’t real, undermines our healthcare and pounds middle-class Orange County residents with higher taxes and more debt to pay for giveaways to his billionaire allies,” the statement said.

Steel voiced opposition last year to California’s Senate Bill 54 — a “sanctuary state” law that in many cases prohibits local law enforcement from alerting immigration agents when detainees who may be subject to deportation are released from custody — calling it “totally unconstitutional.” She was part of a Board of Supervisors vote for the county to join a Trump administration lawsuit challenging the law.

In January, Trump picked Steel to co-chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“She’s a Trump appointee and a career politician, so we have to take her challenge very seriously,” the Rouda statement said.

Steel, who is married to Republican National Committee member Shawn Steel, did not mention Trump in her announcement Thursday.

Daily Pilot staff contributed to this report.

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This article was originally published at 9:10 a.m. and was later updated with additional comments.