Election 2020: Southern California congressional races to watch

Election guide
The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite))

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite))

Victories in several high-profile Southern California congressional races were instrumental in helping the Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 election. Two years later, Democrats are hoping to hold onto and strengthen that majority, while Republicans look to wipe out gains from the mid-term election.

The following local races are among the most competitive in the country — according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report — and could help shape how Congress looks and acts in 2021 and 2022.

  • 25th District: incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Garcia vs. Democrat Christy Smith
  • 39th District: incumbent Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros vs. Republican Young Kim
  • 48th District: incumbent Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda vs. Republican Michelle Steel
  • 50th District (open): Republican former Rep. Darrell Issa vs. Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar

25th District: Mike Garcia (incumbent) vs. Christy Smith

About the district:

Most of northern Los Angeles County, including part of L.A.’s Porter Ranch, the Santa Clarita Valley, part of the Antelope Valley, and Simi Valley.

About the race:

Rep. Mike Garcia, a Republican backed by President Trump, hopes to hold onto the seat he won this past May when he defeated Assemblywoman Christy Smith, a Democrat, in a special election. The Nov. 3 contest is a rematch between the two.

Democrats hope that the general election will yield a higher turn out of left-leaning voters, a result they say would help flip the seat yet again. In the solidly purple district, either party’s candidate has a “good chance of winning,” according to the Cook Political Report. The race is listed by Cook as a “Republican toss up.”

The May special election marked the first time in more than two decades that a Republican won a congressional seat held by a Democrat in the Golden State. But in this district, the GOP had held on to the House seat for more than a quarter century prior to Katie Hill’s 2018 “blue wave” victory. She defeated incumbent Rep. Steve Knight in a hotly contested race that helped Democrats retake control of the House.

Hill served less than a year before becoming embroiled in a scandal involving an alleged affair with a member of her congressional staff that became the subject of a House ethics probe. She denied the accusation, but acknowledged having an affair with a campaign worker. Hill resigned in November 2019.

(Mike Garcia for Congress)

About Garcia:

Having grown up in the Santa Clarita area, Garcia, the son of a Mexican immigrant father, went to the U.S. Naval Academy and became a Navy fighter pilot. Before winning the special election — the 44-year-old’s first time running for office — Garcia was an executive at defense contractor Raytheon with a side interest in “successfully flipping houses.” He has two sons with his wife.

Here is where Garcia stands on the issues and here is a list of his endorsements. Information on Garcia’s voting record can be found here.

Christy Smith (Courtney Lindberg Photography)
Christy Smith (Courtney Lindberg Photography)

About Smith:

A member of the state Assembly since 2018, 51-year-old Smith previously served two terms on the Newhall School District board. She spent most of her childhood in the Santa Clarita area, graduated from College of the Canyons and UCLA and went on to work as an education policy analyst for the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. She returned to where she grew up and has two daughters with her husband.

Here is where Smith stands on the issues and here is a list of her endorsements. Smith’s voting record can be found here.

39th District: Gil Cisneros (incumbent) vs. Young Kim

About the district:

Northern Orange County, Chino Hills in San Bernardino County, plus Diamond Bar, Walnut, La Habra Heights and unincorporated areas in the southern San Gabriel Valley of L.A. County.

About the race:

In another rematch — this one from the 2018 mid-term election — Rep. Gil Cisneros, a Democrat, will square off against former California Assemblywoman Young Kim, a Republican.

Cisneros narrowly defeated Kim in what was the last House contest in California to be decided that election. The seat was previously held by longtime GOP Rep. Ed Royce, who announced his retirement from Congress in 2018. Democrats hold a slight edge over Republicans in the number of registered voters in the district.

The Cook Political Report lists this race as “likely Democratic,” meaning that the contest is not necessarily competitive at the moment, but has that potential.

(Gil Cisneros for Congress)
(Gil Cisneros for Congress)

About Cisneros:

Born and raised in Southern California, 49-year-old Cisneros is a Navy veteran who was the first in his family to graduate from college. Cisneros holds master’s and MBA degrees from Brown and Regis universities, respectively. He previously worked in managerial positions at Frito-Lay. The freshman congressman and his wife Jacki are philanthropists who founded the Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros Foundation after winning a $266 million lottery jackpot. They are parents to twin 5-year-old boys.

Here is where Cisneros stands on the issues and here is a list of his endorsements. Information on Cisneros’s voting record can be found here.

(Young Kim for Congress)
(Young Kim for Congress)

About Kim:

Kim, 57, became the first Korean-American state assemblywoman to represent Southern California when she was elected to represent the 65th Assembly District in 2014. She was born in South Korea, raised in Guam and immigrated to the mainland U.S. to attend the University of Southern California. Kim has been a small business owner and served as a district staffer to Royce prior to being elected to the Assembly. She is married with four children.

Here is where Kim stands on the issues and here is a list of her endorsements. Information on Kim’s voting record can be found here.

48th District: Harley Rouda (incumbent) vs. Michelle Steel

About the district:

Most of coastal Orange County, as well as parts of Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Westminster.

About the race:

Rep. Harley Rouda, 58, defeated a formidable opponent — incumbent Dana Rohrabacher, a California GOP stalwart who served in Congress for three decades and had President Trump’s endorsement — when he turned the seat blue in 2018. Rouda has a few things in common with Cisneros, his fellow Orange County representative: Both men had never run for political office prior to the 2018 campaign; each used to be a registered Republican; and they were involved in tight contests that were too close to call on election night.

This time around, Rouda will face off against Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel, who has served in her current position since 2015. The Republican candidate will try to flip the district’s traditionally conservative seat — one that had never been in Democratic hands until Rouda’s election — back to the GOP.

The bitterly fought race was recently entwined in controversy over the state GOP’s placement of unofficial ballot boxes in Orange County that prompted a cease-and-desist letter from the California attorney general. A regional field director for the state party posted a social media photo of himself posing with the boxes while wearing a face mask with Steel’s campaign logo.

While the race in the battleground district is considered competitive, Rouda does have an advantage, according to the Cook Political Report, which lists it as “lean Democratic.”

Harley Rouda (Courtney Lindberg Photography)
Harley Rouda (Courtney Lindberg Photography)

About Rouda:

Rouda, who is originally from Ohio, holds a law degree from Capital University and an MBA from the Ohio State University. He was a real estate investor with a multimillion-dollar company before his first run for office in 2018, the Los Angeles Times reported. A former registered Republican, Rouda left the party in 1997 but didn’t change his party preference until 2017. He and his wife, author Kaira Rouda, have four children.

Here is where Rouda stands on the issues and here is a list of his endorsements. Information on Rouda’s voting record can be found here.

(Michelle Steel for Congress)
(Michelle Steel for Congress)

About Steel:

Steel, 65, was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S., where she went to Pepperdine University and received an MBA from USC. The businesswoman and tax payer advocate was elected to the state’s Board of Equalization prior to her first successful run for the O.C. Board of Supervisors in 2014. Last year, she was appointed by President Trump as the co-chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Steel is married to Shawn Steel, a member of the Republican National Committee and former chair of the California GOP. They have two daughters.

Here is where Steel stands on the issues and here is a list of her endorsements. Information on Steel’s voting record can be found here.

50th District: Darrell Issa vs. Ammar Campa-Najjar (open seat)

About the district:

Much of northern and central San Diego County, as well as portions of southwestern Riverside County, including Temecula.

About the race:

California’s 50th Congressional District seat has been vacant since January, when Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter resigned weeks after pleading guilty in a corruption case.

His opponent from the 2018 election, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, is on the ballot again after a losing a hard-fought and high-profile race in the Republican-leaning district. Campa-Najjar, 31, will face another tough opponent this time around: former Rep. Darrell Issa. The 66-year-old is a well-known California Republican who served nine terms in Congress before opting not to run in the 2018 election. His former seat, in the neighboring 49th District, was ultimately won by Mike Levin, a Democrat.

The Cook Political Report lists the 50th District race as “likely Republican,” giving Issa the edge in a race that could potentially “become engaged.”

Former Republican congressman Darrell Issa speaks during a news conference in El Cajon on Sept. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
Darrell Issa (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

About Issa:

The Ohio native is an Army veteran who went on to become a successful and wealthy businessman, running the company that made a popular aftermarket car alarm. His was the voice that said, “Protected by Viper. Stand back.” Issa was for a time the richest member of Congress. Early in his congressional career, Issa was instrumental in the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. He served as the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2011 to 2015. After he left the House, Issa was nominated by Trump to head the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, but the Senate delayed the confirmation vote in September 2019 due to “vetting issues.” Issa is married with one son.

Here is where Issa stands on the issues and here is a list of his endorsements. Information on Issa’s voting record can be found here.

(Ammar Campa-Najjar for Congress)
(Ammar Campa-Najjar for Congress)

About Campa-Najjar:

Born and raised in San Diego, Campa-Najjar is a graduate of San Diego State University and a small business owner. He was the deputy regional field director for President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, then worked in the Executive Office of the President at the White House. Campa-Najjar went on to become the communications and marketing director for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and later led the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Public Affairs for the Employment and Training Administration.

Here is where Campa-Najjar stands on the issues and here is a list of his endorsements.

Most Popular

Latest News

More News

KTLA on Instagram

Instagram

KTLA on Facebook

KTLA on Twitter