HomePoliticsMichelle Steel and Derek Tran in slugfest in Orange County election

Michelle Steel and Derek Tran in slugfest in Orange County election

Tensions grow between two Asian American candidates in Orange County, California, as they both battle over the Asian American vote in a closely watched congressional race.

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA), the current representative of California’s 45th Congressional District, is being challenged by political newcomer and Democrat, Derek Tran, for her seat. According to a poll by the Washington Examiner, when likely voters were asked about each candidate by name, Tran received 41% of support amongst those polled, compared to Steel’s 42%. When those polled were given information about each candidate, Tran’s support grew to 52%, while Steel’s fell to 39%.

According to the Washington Examiner, this poll shows that Tran is making progress amongst undecided voters.

Orrin Evans, a spokesperson for Tran’s campaign, told the Washington Examiner that “The data shows that voters are fed up with Michelle Steel’s record of corruption and voting to restrict women’s reproductive rights”. “Army veteran Derek Tran, the son of Vietnamese refugees, is ready to flip this seat and get to work for Southern California families.”.

Steel’s supporters have spoken out against the polling, with Sam Oh, one of Steel’s consultants, telling the Washington Examiner that “Tran’s campaign knows they had a sad, weak showing in the primary,”. He continued by saying that “Ever since, Tran has been floundering and clamoring for attention and relevancy. A biased push poll and hiring a clown for acting lessons won’t change anything for him. This is barely worth a shrug.”.

This poll also comes at a time when tensions between the two candidates have risen.

Nearly four dozen AAPI community leaders and organizations in California’s 45th congressional district have signed a letter requesting that Tran apologize for comments he made about Steel in an interview with Punchbowl News. Out of the 45 people who have signed the letter, 41 have endorsed Steel.

In the interview, Tran said that Steel’s own immigrant background might not resonate with some of her voters, arguing that “Michelle still tries to run on that she’s a refugee or she tried to flee communism. No, that’s not true at all,”. “She came to this country for economic gain. That’s not the same as losing one’s country after the fall of Saigon in ‘75 and having no home.”.

In response, the letter said that “starting a new life and working to attain a better economic state is the American Dream that so many of us or our parents have done. It’s why we are here, and why we love representing the diverse groups in our communities.”, further mentioning that Tran “of all people should know and have respect for that”.

“You owe her and the thousands of immigrants here an apology. Do what’s right and run a better campaign or get out of the race.”.

In response, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus’s ASPIRE PAC, one of Tran’s endorsers, said that Steel was the one using ‘xenophobic tactics’, bringing up her attacks and accusations towards her 2022 opponent, Jay Chen.

“Steel has no business lecturing anyone — especially the son of Vietnamese refugees and a veteran of the United States Army — after she and her allies spent millions of dollars launching straight-up racist attacks at her political opponents of Asian descent — going as far as to invoke xenophobic propaganda in her campaign ads to sully the name of a respected Taiwanese American veteran and sow fear among voters in Orange County,”, ASPIRE PAC Executive Director Nic Jordan said in an interview with Spectrum News.

“Her xenophobic tactics caused outrage from AAPI groups and AAPI elected officials alike, and residents in the Vietnamese community of Little Saigon — and Derek, a veteran and the son of refugees, won’t stand for her baseless attacks any longer.”.

Much of California’s 45th congressional district is centered around Little Saigon, Orange County. The Washington Examiner‘s poll showed that 46% of Vietnamese voters supported Steel, while 43% supported Tran.

36.9% of voters in the district identified as Democrats before of the March primary, 33.3% identified as Republicans, while 23.8% chose no party, according to data from the California Secretary of State’s office. The district was redristricted in 2022, but an even number of Democrats and Republicans have represented the encompassed cities over the years. The area also has a heavy AAPI population.

Despite Tran’s growing support, and the fact that there are more Democrats in the district then Republicans, defeating Steel isn’t expected to be an easy task. Steel’s latest campaign finance numbers at $3 million, while Tran’s campaign was reported to be under $200,000. As a result, the outcome of November’s election will largely come down to independent voters.

Against the odds, Tran remains optimistic about winning the November election, telling Spectrum News that “I think the clear contrast between Michelle Steel and myself is the fact that it boils down to selflessness…I enlisted in the military at 18 to serve my country, and I wanted to give back to my country. And in a lot of ways, this run for Congress is that — is giving back to my country.”.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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