Garden Grove Councilmember Kim Bernice Nguyen has her eyes set on a congressional seat.
The two-term councilmember launched a 2024 bid for the 45th congressional district, held by Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, on Wednesday, touting her experience with local government and bipartisanship.
“While Washington plays political games, California families are struggling, dealing with the rising cost of living, education and healthcare, as well as climate disasters like floods and wildfires,” Nguyen said.
California’s C-shaped 45th district starts in Fountain Valley, curves north to pick up Cerritos in Los Angeles County and rounds out in Placentia.
Steel was first elected to the seat in 2020 — then, just one of three that marked the first time since 1994 that a Republican unseated an incumbent Democrat in a House race in California.
A former county supervisor and state Board of Equalization member, Steel won reelection in 2022, beating Democratic opponent Jay Chen by about 10,000 votes in what was a volatile campaign.
Nguyen, 31, lost her bid for the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2022 to now-former Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento in a Dem-on-Dem race.
Despite the loss, Nguyen learned a valuable lesson from the race, which she said ended up being closer than people predicted: Don’t count her out.
“Even when I ran for reelection or first ran for office, there’s a lot of people who told me, ‘You’re too young, wait your turn, pay your dues, not right now.’ You internalize that, and that’s always stayed with me,” Nguyen said. “But it’s pushed me to work hard to prove myself because I knew I was capable. I knew I could do the job and had the community’s trust.
“That (supervisor) race shows folks that I shouldn’t be written off,” she said. “I work hard, and I believe in the work of a public servant to elevate and lift the voices of the community I represent.”
Nguyen is the daughter of a Vietnamese refugee and a Mexican immigrant. And when she first won her seat on the Garden Grove council — where she represents the western District 6, home to the city’s densest population of Hispanic Americans and the Christ Cathedral — she became its first member of Hispanic descent.
While she touts her bipartisan work on the council, there are a few issues she won’t waver on, she said — one of them being reproductive rights.
Nguyen said she is a survivor of rape from about 10 years ago and suffered a miscarriage last year.
“It’s really important for me to have the ability to make decisions over my own body, and none of us take that responsibility lightly. It’s deeply personal,” she said.
Other important issues for her include housing — she was recently a renter, only just buying her condo last year — and health care, including mental health.
Steel faced a 5-point deficit in voter registration last year, and Nguyen’s campaign said the district is already earmarked by Democrats as a potential pickup in 2024.
“Michelle’s bipartisan record of common sense solutions, putting people before politics and being a strong voice against the DC status quo is why she receives support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents,” Lance Trover, a campaign spokesperson for the congresswoman, said in a statement. “Southern California voters know her record of fighting for lower taxes, standing up to China and ensuring everyone has a shot at the American dream is why she was resoundingly re-elected in 2022 and will be again in 2024.”
In the 2022 midterms, more than 217,400 people in the district cast ballots in the CA-45 race.