A unique battle for Congress in Southern California

The Southern California congressional race features two foreign-born candidates — freshman Rep. Young Kim, who hails from South Korea, and her Democratic challenger, Dr. Asif Mahmood, a pulmonologist who will become the first Pakistani-born member of Congress.


What do you need to know

  • The Southern California congressional race features two foreign-born candidates — freshman Rep. Young Kim, who hails from South Korea, and her Democratic challenger, Dr. Asif Mahmood, a pulmonologist born in Pakistan.
  • The 40th Congressional District, which spans parts of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, is listed as “likely Republican” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
  • When pressed on whether she would support a statewide abortion ban after 15 weeks sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-C., Kim would not respond
  • Mahmood, on the other hand, has made abortion rights central to his campaign, telling Spectrum News that it is part of the driving force behind his run for office.

The 40th Congressional District, which spans parts of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, is listed as “likely Republican” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Borrowing heavily from the national Republican playbook, Kim’s campaign has focused on inflation, the southern border and crime.

“We have a plan to keep our border secure,” Kim said, touting her proposed comprehensive Southern Border Strategy Act, which directs the Department of Homeland Security to submit a plan that includes an overview of current security risks to the agency’s review. drug tracking tools, accounting for various types of physical barriers, and costing for security devices used by the agency.

“Each of us is working to make sure that our commitment to America includes our commitment to keeping our respective counties safe from … the crimes that are occurring and making sure that our border is secure, especially as California borders Mexico ,” Kim added. .

One issue Kim avoids is abortion rights.

“I know it’s important to some of my constituents, but it’s not the focus of our campaign or this election,” Kim said. “That’s not what I’m hearing from people.

“What I hear from my constituents is inflation, the election crisis… these are the issues people care about,” Kim added.

When pressed on whether she would support a statewide ban on abortions after 15 weeks sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-C., Kim would not respond.

“I believe we must protect the lives of the unborn and I believe life begins at conception,” Kim said. “I respect the decision of the Supreme Court. I am pro-life. But I respect a woman whose life is in danger, and there are certain exceptions that need to be made in the case of rape and incest.”

Mahmood, on the other hand, has made abortion rights central to his campaign, telling Spectrum News that it is part of the driving force behind his run for office.

“The biggest issue today is not just the health care part, it’s really basic human rights and American values: women’s right to choose, reproductive freedom,” he said. “This is really an integral part of health care.”

“This is definitely a top issue and we have a large number of educated women in our district who will vote on the issue, not the party base, and I strongly believe we will win this,” he added.

Mahmood was born in a rural village in Pakistan and attended medical school in Pakistan before immigrating to the United States in 1999. Since then, he has lived and treated patients in Southern California and is a member of the California Medical Board.

“I’m a problem solver,” Mahmood said during a recent campaign event in Chino Hills. “I am not a politician. I have been a doctor all my life and have treated tens of thousands of patients. There is not a single case [where] I asked someone, “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?” People come in, they sit down, we get to the problem, we solve the problem, we get them out … that’s exactly what can happen in District 40.”

Mahmood says he wants to come to Washington to try to address issues like climate change and the cost of prescription drugs.

“I have a large number of constituents who live on a fixed income, [and] as a doctor, I know that many people spend half of their earnings on prescription drugs,” Mahmood said. “It’s very, very sad to know that some people have to spend $400 to $800 just for monthly insulin costs, and their entire monthly income might be $1,600. That’s what she said [Kim] I just voted against cutting the cost of insulin.”

Mahmood says another issue he hears about quite often is concern about the state of democracy after the attack on Congress on January 6, 2021.

“People are worried about our democracy. So many people,” Mahmood emphasized. “I am here in this country for freedom.

“People are dealing with it and people are bringing it up a lot.

Kim, who was in the Capitol with other lawmakers on Jan. 6, 2021, when the uprising broke out, voted to confirm the results of the Pennsylvania election, but missed the vote to confirm the Arizona delegates — because, she said, she was waiting for a COVID test. She strongly condemned the violence of that day and introduced measures to impeach President Donald Trump for his actions as an alternative to impeachment. Kim did not vote to impeach Trump for his role in the uprising.

California County is 60.5% white, 17.4% Asian American, and 18.9% Hispanic. In the 2020 election, Joe Biden topped communities in the 40th by nearly 2 percentage points over Donald Trump.

“Democrats, at least in the last few cycles, have really relied on being the big charter party, on having minority interests represented not just through their policies, but through people actually throwing up on the ballot. ” explained Casey Burgat, program director for legislative affairs at George Washington University.

“Republicans have been able to make some inroads, especially in certain districts and states, and this is one of those times where they can kind of undermine the fact that it’s not just a party of older, rich white people. , which historically the Republicans have definitely disproportionately swayed,” added Burgat.

Kim was one of the first Korean-born women to serve in the House of Representatives, part of the GOP’s push to be more diverse.

She was first elected two years ago in the adjacent congressional district, the 39th, but decided to run in the 40th after the redistricting became more Republican than the one she now represents.

“It seems like she decided to run in a district that would probably be friendlier to her than to run against Linda Sanchez, who is a longtime incumbent Democrat,” said Sara Sadhwani, assistant professor of politics at Pomona. University.

“I think it would be very difficult for her to stay and try to run in those areas,” added Sadhwani, who is a member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, which helped redraw the state’s congressional districts.

Kim says she isn’t deterred by the challenges the new neighborhood presents.

“These are communities that I know very well, they have some of my overlapping constituencies,” Kim explained. “I worked here when I was a congressional staffer [for Congressman Ed Royce]and now we’ve been working really hard for the last year trying to get to know and re-introduce ourselves in the new 40.

Whether voters will send her back to Washington remains to be seen.

“Not long ago, Orange County was home to a strong Republican contingent of voters. And in 2018, we saw an unquote blue wave come into California, and Orange County was established 04 for these districts that kind of flipped and changed, and Orange County voters voted Democrat in a way that we’ve never seen before,” Sadhwani said.

“Where this new 40th district is, whether that change has happened or not, it’s again pretty affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods,” Sadhwani added. “So these are very exclusive areas that tend to lean more Republican. So of course I think if Kim takes the middle ground it will help her with some voters. Some voters have left the Republican Party and never looked back. At the same time, there are some who continue to pledge their allegiance to Donald Trump and would like to see her closer to Trump.

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