Republican Supervisor Michelle Steel pulled ahead of Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda late Tuesday, according to Election Night ballot counts from the OC Registrar of Voters.
Republicans are hoping to retake ground lost in the 2018 elections.
Rouda, a businessman and former Republican, wants to reinstate tax deductions for mortgages, lower the cost of prescription drugs and expand health care coverage, according to his campaign website.
Steel, who sits on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, is looking to end sanctuary cities, also wants to reinstate tax deductions for mortgages, is against government-run health care and aims to keep protections for people with pre-existing conditions, according to her campaign website.
Rouda has criticized Steel for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic while serving on the Board of Supervisors.
Meanwhile, Steel, on social media, showed a picture of Rouda and his wife at dinner with no masks on.
But Rouda said that picture was from January, well before the pandemic hit.
The two have consistently attacked each other over social media leading up to the final weeks of the election.
Local elections experts said Rouda is likely to win because of his moderate approach, coupled with Steel’s response to the pandemic.
“She’s made a lot of blunders, a lot of bizarre statements that have become noticed,” said Mike Moodian, a Chapman University political science professor. “She made a very unusual remark about species discrimination about dogs and masks. It’s something that I’ve watched 20 times and still can’t figure out what she’s trying to say.”
But Orange County GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker said Rouda could be in trouble.
“Harley’s going to have a lot of explaining to do. He was all for when Gavin (Newsom) shut down the beaches, and then he went out on his private beach,” Whitaker said during an Aug. 19 Voice of OC podcast.
“Harley is in an area … that’s used to having public safety, yet everything he has done is to give big shoutouts to the defund the police movement and that doesn’t play well in that district,” Whitaker said.
The OC Register endorsed Rouda and criticized Steel.
“In our interview with Steel, she seemed poorly versed in federal policy issues and overly reliant on GOP talking points,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote. “Steel suggested repealing the federal Department of Education but was otherwise light on specifics about downsizing the federal government.”
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.