California Republican Rep. Michelle Steel has won re-election, defeating Democratic challenger Jay Chen in the state’s 45th Congressional District. The Associated Press called the race at 11 p.m. ET on Monday.
Steel, a first generation Korean American, prevailed in a redrawn district comprising Orange County and areas southeast of Los Angeles, where there is a large Asian American population. The race was projected to lean Republican, and her victory was crucial for the party to recapture the majority in the House of Representatives.
“I am humbled to continue to fight for this community in Congress. Thank you to the voters of #CA45 for putting your trust in me,” Steel tweeted Monday after the race was called.
With the addition of GOP Rep. Ken Calvert’s re-election win in the competitive race for California’s 41st congressional district, Republicans stand just one race shy of winning the 218 seats necessary to wrest control of the House away from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Republicans are currently projected to hold 217 House seats and there are 13 seats left in play that will determine the balance of power in the House. Ten of those races are in California, where state law permits mail-in ballots to be returned up to seven days after the election, as long as they were post-marked by Election Day. The deadline to receive mail ballots in California is today, Nov. 15.
The race in the 45th district was heated and at times descended into personal attacks. The Democratic candidate Chen, a Taiwanese American Navy reservist, accused Steel of holding extreme positions on abortion. He provoked controversy and drew fierce backlash for mocking Steel’s accent, telling supporters an “interpreter” was needed to understand her and that “all she does is rely on Republican talking points fed by her husband.”
Steel answered that Chen’s comments were “racist,” and depicted him as a communist sympathizer on the campaign trail. Chen countered that his grandmother fled China to escape communist tyranny.
On the issues, Steel has generally voted with the majority of Republicans in Congress. She has campaigned on cutting taxes and improving the economy for small businesses, as well as securing the souther border.
Chen campaigned on lowering health care costs and increasing spending on infrastructure, as well as defending abortion rights and expanding government funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.