The 2018 congressional election was a bloodbath for Orange County, Calif., Republicans. Between high-profile retirements and state Democrats legalizing ballot harvesting, it was a grim time in what was considered the last bastion of conservatism. Reagan country was drowning under the Democrats’ blue wave.
It was worse than bad. High-profile Republican congressional leader Ed Royce retired and left open his seat, which was won by Democrat Gil Cisneros. Millionaire nobody Harley Rouda, a Democrat, defeated long-time conservative Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and Republican Rep. Mimi Walters lost her seat to union favorite, Democrat Katie Porter. Darrell Issa’s old seat was won by a Democrat.
Time was short. To defeat the newbies it had to be done in one election cycle, maybe two.
On Tuesday, one week after the election, the people in the Orange County Congressional District 48, Rohrabacher’s old district, finally got their winner. Republican Orange County Commission Chair Michelle Steel was named the winner in a tightly contested race.
This victory has been hard-fought and hard-won, and I could not be more humbled to have your support nor more honored to serve our community in Congress. Now, let's get to work. #CA48 pic.twitter.com/5aVvsvABiw
— Michelle Steel (@MichelleSteelCA) November 10, 2020
Steel’s steady leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, including fighting for open schools and freedom for residents, attracted voters to her.
In Royce’s old district, the 39th CD, popular Orange County Assemblywoman Young Kim, who vied for the seat in 2018 and lost, was back in the mix. She appears to have won the seat, with a comfortable 4.5% with only 1% of the votes left outstanding.
The win(s) have been particularly satisfying because OC Democrats thought they’d be able to ballot-harvest their way to another win. This time Republicans were ready for them and erected secure guarded boxes to collect ballots. Democrats took the Republicans to court to stop the harvesting, calling for yanking out the boxes. Democrats lost.
The Voice of OC reported that local GOP leaders believe this is the start of a comeback.
Fred Whitaker, who heads the Republican Party of Orange County, said Steel’s victory “is the start of the Orange County comeback for Republicans.”
Steel, who is married to Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel, emphasized her work on the county board and longtime opposition to higher taxes, while also criticizing Democratic leadership in state government.
OC residents noticed that Rouda promised to work across political lines and then proceeded to vote for nearly everything on Nancy Pelosi’s and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s wish lists – including the bogus impeachment vote. That didn’t fly with OC voters.