ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (AP) — Republican Young Kim defeated U.S. Rep. Gil Cisneros on Friday in Southern California, the second GOP candidate to snatch a Democratic-held seat in the state this year.
The contest in the 39th Congressional District anchored in Orange County was a rematch from 2018, when Cisneros was one of seven Democrats who claimed GOP-held California districts that year.
Kim overcame President Donald Trump’s poor performance in heavily Democratic California, where he got only one-third of the votes.
Kim, a former state lawmaker, was born in South Korea and grew up in Guam. She joins Washington state’s Marilyn Strickland and California’s Michelle Steel as the first Korean American women elected to Congress.
Strickland, a Democrat, last week won the open 10th Congressional District southwest of Seattle. Steel, a Republican, claimed the 48th District in Orange County on Tuesday from Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda.
Republicans set out this year to reclaim at least some of the seats lost two years ago.
They have recaptured two, with wins by Steel and Kim, and are leading in two others: the Central Valley’s 21st District, where Republican former Rep. David Valadao was ahead of Democratic Rep. TJ Cox, and the 25th District north of Los Angeles, where Republican Rep. Mike Garcia was in a back-and-forth fight with Democrat Christy Smith.
Republicans also held the open 50th District seat anchored in San Diego County, which former U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa will represent after winning his comeback bid two years after deciding not to seek reelection in a neighboring district that has become more Democratic. The 50th District has a nearly 10-point GOP registration edge. The seat was vacated earlier this year by Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter after he pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge.
The wins by Kim and Steel mark a surprising turnaround in a state where Democrats hold every statewide office, have commanding majorities in the Legislature and congressional delegation, and a nearly 2-to-1 advantage over Republicans in registered voters.
Kim, 58, overcame a Democratic registration edge in the district, which also includes slices of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, and surmounted widespread distaste for Trump.
In the campaign, Kim depicted Cisneros as subservient to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Cisneros, a Navy veteran and $266 million lottery jackpot winner who founded a charitable foundation with his wife, promoted his efforts to protect health care.