Former Rep. Harley Rouda said Monday he will not run for a newly drawn Orange County congressional seat, averting a potentially bruising intraparty battle with Rep. Katie Porter, a fellow Democrat.
The two were set on a campaign collision course last month after California’s latest congressional boundaries were set. Both signaled plans to run in the 47th district, which includes Huntington Beach and other coastal cities once represented by Rouda as well as Porter’s hometown of Irvine.
“While I do believe I would represent my district best, I am also pragmatic. I have no interest in running against a Democratic incumbent who has decided to run in this district,” Rouda said in a statement suspending his campaign.
Nationally, Democrats have been hoping to minimize the number of highly contested primary contests on their side this year in order to conserve resources for what’s likely to be a difficult fight against Republicans in the fall. The party in the the White House typically loses seats in a president’s first midterm election, and Republicans would need to gain only five seats to win back the House majority that they lost in 2018.
Rouda and Porter were both elected in that 2018 wave of Democratic congressional victories. Porter has since become a national political figure. Rouda lost his seat two years later to Republican Rep. Michelle Steel and had spent most of the last year preparing for a rematch.
Steel, meanwhile, said last month she will seek a seat that includes the Orange County cities of Garden Grove and Westminster, home to Little Saigon. She’ll probably face Democrat Jay Chen, a community college trustee and two-time congressional candidate.
Steel’s decision cleared the way for Scott Baugh, a former state legislator and chair of the Orange County GOP, to jump into the race against Porter.
GOP Rep. Young Kim, who was elected along with Steel in 2020, announced she will run in a district that includes Yorba Linda and Chino Hills.
Their races will be among the most closely watched of the midterm elections this year.
The flurry of campaign announcements during the holiday season was spurred by the completion of the state’s redistricting process, a once-a-decade redrawing of political boundaries. The new districts were created by an independent citizen panel and are meant to reflect changes in population and community interests.
Most of the action has centered on incumbents staking out districts in which to seek reelection.
Among open seats, at least one high-profile Democratic battle is brewing in the area now represented by Reps. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach and Lucille Roybal-Allard of Downey, who are both retiring at the end of this term. Their districts have been consolidated into one solidly Democratic seat; Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens have already jumped into the race.