A physician who’s fairly progressive and had a solid showing in a 2018 statewide race.
A conservative retired Marine colonel who two years ago made it through a congressional primary.
A young junk hauler and self-proclaimed American Nationalist who’s pledging to “take out the trash” in Washington, D.C.
The field of challengers for the newly drawn 40th congressional district isn’t very deep. Three candidates — Democrat Asif Mahmood, and Republicans Greg Raths and Nick Taurus — hope to beat the other two in the June 7 primary. Whoever does that will appear on the decisive November general election ballot, for an almost guaranteed face-off with incumbent GOP Rep. Young Kim.
But the small field clearly offers a wide range of backgrounds and policy ideas.
Among California’s Congress members, few got dealt a happier hand in redistricting than Kim, noted Marcia Godwin, a professor of public administration at University of La Verne who tracks local elections. When district lines were redrawn and incumbents shuffled around, Kim, 59, went from representing a district that leans solidly blue and favored Biden by more than 10 points to campaigning in a district where Republicans have a 5-point advantage in voter registration and Biden would have scored only a narrow win.
Kim also has the backing of the national GOP and the benefits of incumbency, with a relatively productive and drama-free first term underway. She touts her proudest moment in Congress to date as passage of legislation she backed to extend the deadline for small business owners to access Payroll Protection Program loans during the pandemic. That all has forecasters predicting she will hang onto her seat come November.
The political shift of her district also has Kim, who lives just outside CA-40 boundaries in La Habra, appearing to embrace her conservative side. While she presented as moderate during the 2020 last campaign cycle in a blue-leaning district, when she narrowly defeated Democratic incumbent Gil Cisneros to flip back the seat, she recently ranked herself a seven on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being “far right” on the political spectrum.
Her two GOP challengers both positioned themselves further to the right on that scale, with Raths giving himself an eight and Taurus a 10.
Raths, 69 — who was a fighter pilot in the Marines for 30 years and has been a Mission Viejo councilman since 2014 — garnered 45.6% of the vote in 2020 when he made it to the general election against incumbent Democratic Rep. Katie Porter in a district that largely overlaps with the new CA-40. (Porter is running this cycle in a new coastal district that includes her Irvine home.) When asked how he’d measure his success as an office holder, Raths pointed to his work in Mission Viejo, where he said they have a balanced budget, “no homeless” and high-quality amenities.
Taurus, 30, taught English in Hungary for a year after college and now works as a junk hauler. This is the Laguna Hill resident’s first run for public office. He was in the news last year for leading a group involved in a confrontation at a Porter town hall that ended with punches thrown, and again earlier this year for being escorted out of an Orange County GOP meeting. Taurus says he’d measure his success as a Congress member by his ability “to pass the most important program in my platform, a 25-year immigration moratorium.”
That’s by far the most extreme immigration proposal from the GOP candidates in the CA-40 race. However, none of the Republicans support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, with both Kim and Raths also mentioning the need for more border security in their platforms.
But while Kim and Raths recognized Joe Biden as the true winner of the 2020 presidential election, Taurus said Biden did not win.
Given the GOP advantage in voter registration in CA-40, Godwin said she suspects Raths entered the race hoping two Republicans might advance to the November election. Another factor working to his advantage there, Godwin noted, is that Republicans are more likely to vote in primaries than Democrats are — particularly in midterms where Democrats have a majority and without any tight contests at the statewide level.
But forecasters also are generally united in who they think will make it through the primary with Kim, and that’s Mahmood.
Mahmood, 60, is an internal medicine physician who’s practiced in Southern California for more than 20 years and works with several nonprofit foundations. He’s run for office once before, in 2018, when he finished third (with 13.5% of the vote) in the contest for state Insurance Commissioner. And he recently moved to Tustin to run for CA-40.
Mahmood’s stances on key issues fall largely along party lines. He supports a pathway to immigration, for example. He also supports aggressive policies to combat climate change and is the only CA-40 candidate who broadly supports abortion rights and the legality of gay marriage.
When it comes to measuring his success in office, Mahmood said it means “passing solutions that help families,” regardless of how they align with party politics.
But while Mahmood has reported raising more than $1.4 million in the nine weeks since he launched his campaign, the CA-40 race hasn’t yet drawn big spending commitments from political action committees on either side, who so far are focusing resources on neighboring races they consider more competitive. And Mahmood does have a tough needle to thread in the red-leaning district, Godwin noted — as evidenced by the fact that he declined to rate his political ideology on that 1-10 scale.
Elections officials will begin mailing ballots to all registered voters May 9. Voters can register through May 23 at RegisterToVote.ca.gov or check their registration status at VoterStatus.sos.ca.gov.
Centers will open for in-person voting starting May 28. Visit OCVote.gov to learn more.
Source: Orange County Register