25 December 2023
The GOP’s ability to retain power in the House will depend on the outcome of key swing districts in California, where Republicans have made gains in recent years.
California Republicans, often seen as an endangered species, have managed to regain some political ground in the state, thanks in large part to the efforts of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. As McCarthy prepares to step down from the House at the end of December, the GOP’s hold on power in California will face a crucial test in the upcoming 2024 elections. The outcome of several swing districts, where Republicans have a strong base of support, will determine whether the party can maintain its majority in the House. In this article, we will take a closer look at these districts and the candidates who will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of California’s political landscape.
1: Rep. Young Kim – 40th District
Young Kim, a former member of the California State Assembly and aide to former congressman Ed Royce, won her seat in the House in 2020 after a previous unsuccessful attempt in 2018. With the backing of McCarthy and other GOP leaders, Kim defeated incumbent Gil Cisneros in a rematch, becoming one of the first Korean-American women to serve in Congress. Despite winning re-election by a significant margin in 2022, Democrats see Kim’s district as a potential pickup opportunity. Joe Kerr and Allyson Muñiz Damikolas are among the Democratic candidates vying to challenge Kim in the upcoming election.
2: Rep. Michelle Steel – 45th District
Michelle Steel, a former Orange County supervisor, narrowly defeated incumbent Harley Rouda in 2020 in a district that had traditionally favored Republicans. Steel has taken socially-conservative positions on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, aligning herself with the party’s base. However, the current configuration of her district would have favored Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Several Democratic candidates, including Kim Bernice Nguyen-Penaloza and Derek Tran, are looking to challenge Steel in 2024.
3: Rep. Mike Garcia – 27th District
Mike Garcia, a former Navy fighter pilot, has proven to be a formidable candidate in his district, winning three consecutive races against Democrat Christy Smith. Although Garcia narrowly won in 2020, he secured a more decisive victory in 2022. However, the district’s new lines would have favored Biden by a significant margin. Both Republicans and Democrats see this district as crucial for maintaining or flipping the majority in the House. Democrats, including Smith, are rallying behind George Whitesides, a former NASA chief of staff.
4: Rep. Ken Calvert – 41st District
Ken Calvert, the longest-serving California Republican in Congress, has represented parts of Riverside County since 1993. While Calvert has consistently won his races by large margins, his district has become more competitive in recent years. In 2022, Calvert faced a tough challenge from Democrat Will Rollins, winning by a slim margin. Rollins is seeking a rematch in the upcoming election, along with Brian Hawkins, a San Jacinto Councilmember.
5: John Duarte – 13th District
John Duarte holds a Central Valley seat in one of the most pro-Biden districts currently held by a Republican. Duarte’s decision to support Jim Jordan’s bid for the speakership has drawn criticism from House Democrats. In 2022, Duarte won by a narrow margin against Democrat Adam Gray, who is already planning to run against him again in the next election.
6: Rep. David Valadao – 22nd District
David Valadao, a wealthy dairy farmer, made a comeback in 2020 after losing his seat during the anti-Trump wave in 2018. Valadao’s decision to vote for President Donald Trump’s impeachment set him apart from other Republicans, but he managed to secure re-election by a small margin in 2022. Rudy Salas, a former state assembly member, is seeking a rematch, and Melissa Hurtado, a Democratic state senator, is also running for the seat.
The battle for swing districts in California will be crucial in determining the balance of power in the House in 2024. Republicans, led by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, have made significant gains in these districts, but Democrats see them as potential pickup opportunities. The outcome of these races will shape the future of California’s political landscape and have far-reaching implications for the GOP’s ability to retain control in the House. As the 2024 elections approach, all eyes will be on these districts and the candidates who will determine the fate of California Republicans.