Two Republican challengers have widened slim leads over Orange County Democratic House members as the GOP looks to regain a congressional foothold in the once-decidedly conservative county.

The races remained too close to call, with the results susceptible to change as county election officials continue tabulating votes from Tuesday’s election.

As of Thursday evening, the Orange County Registrar of Voters was reporting a total of 175,516 ballots that still need to be tallied.

Mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day can also be received as late as Nov. 20 and still be counted under state law.

It’s unknown how many of the ballots are yet to be counted or have not been received.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said about 63,000 votes were counted, and 1,600 new ballots arrived in the mail Thursday.

As of Thursday, Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel leads Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Newport Beach, by 4,774 votes in the coastal 48th District. Steel has 50.67% of the vote to Rouda’s 49.33%, or 179,452 votes to 174,678.

Rouda campaigned on his achievements in Congress, insisting he can work across the aisle to reach consensus agreements. He said he wants to “continue our work to lower prescription drug costs, protect our coastline, and stand up to the insiders and special interests that run Washington.”

Steel said during her campaign she was running to provide a “strong voice in Washington, D.C., who will honor promises made and stand up for us and our values.”

She pointed to her work on the Board of Supervisors, saying she fought higher taxes while working to reduce traffic congestion and “ensuring our bays and coastlines are clean.”

Former Assemblywoman Young Kim led Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Yorba Linda, by 2,497 votes, 50.4%-49.6%, in the race to represent the 39th Congressional District, which consists of portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Kim has 146,297 votes and Cisneros 143,800.

The race is a rematch of 2018, when Cisneros defeated Kim, who had been a member of the staff of former Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, who held the seat from 1993-2019.

Two years ago, Kim was leading and even traveled to Washington, D.C., for orientation for newly elected House members, only to be overtaken by Cisneros in late-arriving ballots.

Kim is seeking to be the first Korean-American woman in Congress.

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