Democrat Gil Cisneros defeats Young Kim in 39th District congressional race

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Gil Cisneros speaking at his Nov. 6 election watch party. His opponent for the 39th District seat is Young Kim.
Cisneros addresses the crowd at his Nov. 6 watch party (Dominique Villamor / Daily Titan)

Update: This story was updated at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 25th to include the most up to date polling information. 

Democrat Gil Cisneros has defeated Republican Young Kim in the race for the 39th Congressional District seat, marking the last of the seven Orange County congressional districts to turn blue in a historically conservative region.

The race was called by the Associated Press on Nov. 17 at 6:03 p.m. Cisneros leads his opponent by nearly 6,350 votes at press time.

On Nov. 7, the day after Election Day, Kim was leading by 8.6 percent. Throughout election night, the race remained close and undecided, yet Cisneros’ supporters remained optimistic.

Mail-in ballots counted in the days following helped Cisneros take his first lead on Nov. 15 by a narrow 941 votes. After that, his lead continued to grow until Kim officially conceded on Saturday night, ending her bid to be the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress.

“This is my home and I remain committed to finding ways to work with others to improve the lives of the people of this district. Both sides worked hard in this campaign, but now it’s time to come together and find solutions and opportunities that move our community and country forward,” Kim said on Twitter.

Cisneros will replace Ed Royce (R- Fullerton) who served as the 39th District incumbent for 13 terms after first assuming office in 1992.

“I continue to be humbled by the outpouring of support I received throughout the campaign. (This) victory would not be possible without the thousands of volunteers who dedicated countless hours on my behalf. This is their victory as much as it is mine,” Cisneros said on Twitter.

Cisneros served in the Navy for 10 years. After winning a $266 million lottery jackpot in 2010, he decided to give back to his community. Since then, Cisneros and his wife, Jacki, have focused their philanthropic efforts on funding higher education opportunities, like scholarships for Hispanic students.

As the first in his family to graduate from college, Cisneros is supportive of Pell Grants and funding federal loan forgiveness programs to help students pay off their college debt. During his campaign, he also advocated to protect Dreamers and the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats targeted the 39th congressional seat as well as three other seats in Orange County in hopes to flip them from red to blue in the midterm elections.

The seven-seat county has been represented by a Republican majority in the past.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won Orange County by a comfortable margin in the 2016 presidential election, nearly 8 percent. She was the first Democrat to win Orange County in a presidential election since 1936.

Now, every congressional seat for Orange County will be occupied by a Democrat.

Getting Cisneros elected is a significant victory for Democrats, as the 39th congressional seat has been called a “Republican stronghold” for decades.

Democrats won control of the 435-member House of Representatives by flipping 38 seats as of press time to establish a majority of 233-200 in the House with two elections still uncalled.

Republicans dominate the Senate with 52 members against 45 Democrats with one race still yet to be called as of press time.

Although Cisneros has taken the 39th District seat, the official results of the 2018 midterm elections won’t be certified by the California Secretary of State until Dec. 14.

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