U.S. Rep. Young Kim beat back a last-minute challenge from a fellow Republican and will face off with Democrat Asif Mahmood in the fall election for the seat centered in inland Orange County.
Kim, a well-funded incumbent, appeared to be on a glide path to winning a top-two spot in the primary and moving onto the general election in November to represent the 40th Congressional District. But in the final weeks before the primary, Mission Viejo City Councilman Greg Raths appeared to be gaining momentum among conservatives.
The post-census redrawing of congressional districts meant Kim was facing many voters she had not represented previously. After the redistricting process set off a shuffle of incumbents, Kim, 59, chose to run in the new 40th District. Her La Habra home is just outside the boundaries. (Members of Congress are not required to live in their districts.)
Raths, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress three times before, had been mayor of Mission Viejo, the new district’s largest city. Kim and her allies spent millions of dollars promoting her conservative credentials and attempting to paint Raths as liberal.
Republicans have a nearly 5-percentage-point voter registration edge in the district. In Kim’s current district, 30% of eligible voters are Asian American and 29% Latino; the new district has fewer minority voters and is about 60% white, according to the nonpartisan California Target Book, which handicaps races.
Democrats have listed the 40th District as one of the races they plan to target in the fall midterms. But their top hopes for flipping in the state are districts currently represented by Reps. Mike Garcia, David Valadao and Michelle Steel. Those districts became less favorable for the GOP after maps were redrawn. The Democratic Party must also protect members of Congress such as Reps. Katie Porter and Mike Levin, whose districts became more competitive.
Those races are among several competitive elections in the state that are expected to be vigorously contested by both parties in the fall. Republicans are widely expected to take control of at least one house of Congress in November. California’s congressional delegation, which will still be the largest in the nation at 52 members despite losing a seat after reapportionment, will shape how much power Republicans have.