Michelle Steel emerges victorious in race riddled with claims of red-baiting, anti-Asian racism

  • U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R, CA-45) will remain congresswoman of California’s 45th District after winning the race against Democrat Jay Chen.
  • The Associated Press called the election in her favor on Monday night after the incumbent candidate widened her lead by more than 13,000 votes.
  • Steel vs. Chen was one of the most closely watched races in the recent midterm elections, being a battle between two Asian Americans in a district with a large Asian American constituency.
  • During the campaign period, Steel, a Korean American, sent flyers that painted Chen, a Taiwanese American, as a pro-China, communist sympathizer to the district’s Vietnamese American community.
  • Previously, Chen was accused of mocking Steel’s accent, which led to a protest of more than 40 AAPI groups that accused him of racism.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R, CA-45) will remain congresswoman of California’s 45th District after winning one of the most closely watched races in the recent midterm elections.

As of Monday night, Steel widened her lead against Democratic opponent Jay Chen by over 13,000 votes, leading the Associated Press to call the election in her favor.

The race was reportedly one of the midterm’s most heated campaigns, pitting two Asian American candidates in an inland district with a large Asian American constituency against each other. District 45, as per the Los Angeles Times, straddles Los Angeles and Orange counties and includes the cities of Artesia, Cerritos and Westminster.

Steel was among the first Korean American women elected to the House of Representatives in 2020. In her latest campaign, she launched fliers that painted Chen — a Taiwanese American — as a pro-China, communist-sympathizing candidate due to his previous support of a Beijing-backed language and cultural education center.

The “red-baiting” fliers were reportedly sent to District 45’s Vietnamese American community, whose members include those who fled Vietnam’s communist regimes. The fliers featured a doctored image of Chen in a classroom holding Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto.”

In response, Chen defended himself by sharing the story of his grandmother who fled communist China. The veteran — who has served in the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East — also touted his status as a Naval Reserve officer with top-secret security clearance, suggesting that this would be impossible for a communist sympathizer.

Lindsay Barnes, Chen’s campaign manager, slammed the allegations as “patently untrue.” In a statement, she said that in “only a few days, Michelle Steel — who has never worn a military uniform — preyed upon generational trauma in the Vietnamese community, pushed a patently untrue narrative that a Taiwanese-American is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, and attempted to defile a decorated Navy veteran’s reputation and allegiance to the United States.”

Aside from alleged pro-communist ideals, Chen was previously slammed for mocking Steel’s accent, an incident that ignited a protest by more than 40 AAPI groups who accused him of racism.

“We deal with it [racism]. But usually, you know, you deal with it from outside of your race or from other parties,” James Mai, founder of AAPI United, told Fox News. “But it was very surprising that it came from another Asian American who shouldn’t be saying these things.”

In the end, a majority of voters chose to re-elect Steel, putting Republicans much closer to the House majority.

“I am humbled that voters have given me the opportunity to continue to fight for them in Washington, DC,” Steel said in a statement, according to the Orange County Register. “I have been firm in my commitment to deliver for working class families, and will continue to work to lower taxes, stop inflation, and stand up to Communist China. Thank you to my family, friends, staff, and volunteers who have worked diligently the past year to deliver our message to voters and secure this win.”

 

Featured Image via Jay Chen, Michelle Steel

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