Biden, despite his dominating win in the state, did not have coattails in key House races.
In the 25th District north of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia held on for a 333-vote win over Democrat Christy Smith while running as a Trump apostle in a district with a 7.5-point Democratic registration edge. The son of a Mexican immigrant father, the former Navy combat pilot won the seat in a May special election after the resignation of former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill.
In the Central Valley’s heavily Democratic 21st District, Republican David Valadao, a dairy farmer and son of Portuguese immigrants, reclaimed the seat he lost in 2018 to Democratic Rep. TJ Cox. Valadao had endorsed Trump but also emphasized he has broken with the White House, including criticizing the administration for family separations at the border.
Young Kim defeated Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros in a rematch in the Democratic-leaning 39th District, anchored in Orange County. A former state lawmaker, she was born in South Korea and grew up in Guam.
In the coastal, Republican-leaning 48th District, it appears Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel benefited from unrest over the state’s coronavirus restrictions, an issue she highlighted in her campaign against Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda. Huntington Beach, in the heart of the district, has been a hotbed of opposition to the rules.
Steel and Kim join Washington state’s Marilyn Strickland as the first Korean American women elected to Congress.
Democrats sought to nationalize the races and hitch the GOP House candidates to Trump, while Republicans stressed “issues that people cared about the most, that impacted their daily lives,” said Sam Oh, who helmed winning campaigns for Steel and Kim.
Rose Kapolczynski, a longtime consultant to former Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, credited Republicans with recruiting able contenders. In Orange County “voters saw a different face to the Republican Party in Steel and Kim,” she said. And it was a different year from 2018, when Trump wasn’t on the ballot and many voters sent a message with their House votes, contributing to the Democratic rout.