Michelle Steel, a GOP woman, won her place in the House of Representatives for California’s 48th District on Tuesday after her Democratic opponent, Rep. Harley Rouda, conceded.
While the race was close with 95 percent of precincts reporting, Steel was steadily pulling ahead with 50.9 percent of the vote, while reports showed Rouda at 49.1 percent.
Steel’s victory in the district flipped the seat, which Cook Political Report projected as “lean Democrat,” turning the congressional area encompassing part of Orange County back to red.
Rouda, the district’s current representative, first came into leadership in 2018, replacing Republican Dana Rohrabacher, who was “the longest-serving House incumbent to lose re-election in 2018.”
In 2019, the recently-resigned DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos labeled Rouda a “frontline program member,” signaling that Rouda’s seat was necessary for the Democrats to keep control of the House.
“Our Majority hinges on these Members from tough seats winning reelection in 2020, and with today’s announcement we’re sending a clear message that the DCCC will stand shoulder to shoulder with them in the fight ahead,” she said in a statement.
Steel, the Republican chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, adds to the historic number of Republican women who won seats in the House of Representatives this year.
While multiple media organizations including Fox News projected that Democrats would gain seats in the House, still running off of their blue-wave energy from 2018, the Republican Party surprised them by flipping multiple critical seats and narrowing the Democrats’ majority.
This ground gained by Republicans, especially GOP women such as Steel, has prompted a reality check among some House Democrats, who expressed worry and panic on a caucus call on Thursday that their socialist, anti-police rhetoric cost them key races.
“[If] we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we’re not going to win,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, said on the leaked phone call.
“No one should say ‘defund the police’ ever again,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia said. “Nobody should be talking about socialism.”