Asian-American constituents will have to consider how candidate Jay Chen and incumbent Michelle Steel approach AAPI issues. In the congressional race for California’s newly drawn 45th district, the two candidates for the seat – U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Seal Beach) and Democrat Jay Chen, seem to have different approaches on how to approach AAPI issues.
Asian-American constituents will have to consider how candidate Jay Chen and incumbent Michelle Steel approach AAPI issues.
In the congressional race for California’s newly drawn 45th district, the two candidates for the seat – U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Seal Beach) and Democrat Jay Chen, seem to have different approaches on how to approach AAPI issues.
Chen’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and his support of race-based college admissions, is raising concern among opponents.
After previously attempting to implement CCP education materials to the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District as a school board trustee, Chen championed “Confucius Classroom” programs—funded by the CCP’s Ministry of Education—in 2010 during his time serving on the school board.
Though the programs were created to embed Chinese language and culture into public schools, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the programs would be “advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign.”
Chen faced a recall campaign in 2011 due to his support of Confucius Classroom. At the time, Chen said he didn’t “see anything sinister about using books from China, practically everything we use is made in China.”
Chen has also pushed race-based college admissions, or affirmative action programs, which Steel opposes. Chen, a Harvard University alumni, publicly opposed several organizations which filed a lawsuit against Harvard for anti-Asian discrimination.
According to the court documents, the plaintiffs alleged that Harvard’s affirmative action policy was equivalent to a “racial quota” that disadvantaged certain student groups, like Asian-Americans.
To combat racial quotas, Steel introduced a bill proposal—the HARVARD (Helping Applicants Receive Valid and Reasonable Decisions) Act—to increase transparency in college admissions to end discrimination against Asian-American applicants and eradicate so-called “personality trait” thresholds on applications.
In a joint-opinion article with U.S. Rep. Young Kim (CA-39), Steel criticized Biden’s decision to drop lawsuits challenging race-based admission systems.
Chen also made disparaging comments about Steel’s Korean accent, which Republicans publicly condemned.
“Yeah, so she just had another town hall the other day,” Chen said in a YouTube video on April 13. “And, umm, it’s tough. We’ve transcribed it; you need an interpreter to figure out exactly what she’s saying. The more she speaks, the better for us.”
Led by the Korean American Federation of Orange County, urged Chen to apologize for his comments in a letter.
“Jay Chen’s comments are despicable and an attack on all Koreans and immigrants, whose voices and accents represent the beauty of our diverse nation,” the federation wrote. “These attacks hit deep because they highlight a long history of racism toward the entire Asian American community.”
In an Orange County Register opinion piece, Chen denied making the comments, saying Steel prioritizes “the radicals in her party over the good of her district” and that she lied to her “constituents once again because it’s the only way she can get ahead.”
The GOP incumbent will face off with Chen during the Nov. 8 General Election.