California’s 39th is one of the districts targeted by Democrats as part of their strategy to win a majority in the U.S. House. Kim, who would be the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress, has a compelling story about her immigrant family, and she built many connections in the district during her years working for outgoing Rep. Ed Royce.
Kim’s election night lead of several percentage points has been steadily shrinking as more votes are counted; as of Tuesday night, she was ahead of her Democratic opponent Gil Cisneros by only about 700 votes.
But Kim told supporters on election night that she’s hoping for a divine boost. “I think that’s going to make a difference, God has a way of working in this election cycle, and he has really paved the way,” Kim said, according to the Daily Titan. “Our campaign has the momentum, and we’re going to win it. I just feel it.”
It’s likely that Young has benefited from much more than Lane’s prayers. Lane’s American Renewal Project held two southern California events in September—one in Orange County—at which hundreds of evangelical pastors were exhorted to be a “transforming agent” in California in this year’s midterms.
Lane has been organizing “pastors and pews” events since the mid-1990s to encourage conservative evangelical pastors to preach more about politics and to get their congregations more politically engaged. More recently, he’s been pushing pastors to run for office themselves. One such pastor, Mark Harris, won a close election for Congress from North Carolina this year.
As we noted in September, “Lane preaches that the U.S. has a divine mission to glorify God and advance the Christian faith, and he has called the separation of church and state a ‘lie’ and a ‘fabricated whopper’ designed to stop ‘Christian America—the moral majority—from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media.’”
Kim’s campaign website offered little hint of the agenda that attracted support from the California Renewal Project and groups like the Family Research Council. (In contrast, the pro-LGBTQ Equality CA gave Kim a score of 40 percent for her votes in the state assembly in 2015 and a 50 percent score for 2016.) The “issues” section of Kim’s campaign site addressed such issues as creating jobs, keeping America safe, honoring veterans, fixing immigration, and investing in schools.
Voter guides from Religious Right groups are a different story. The American Renewal Project’s California page highlights Kim’s opposition to abortion rights—it quotes from Kim’s acceptance of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List’s endorsement: “The fundamental right to life is vitally important and I intend to stand up for it as a congresswoman.” Lane’s group also touted her opposition to marriage equality and to the Affordable Care Act.
Family Research Council Action’s voter guide—based on party platforms—highlighted Kim’s support for a 20-week abortion ban, “religious liberty,” “Obamacare repeal,” anti-union legislation, and moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and her opposition to Planned Parenthood funding and minimum wage increases.
In August, Kim posted a picture of herself meeting with Jack Hibbs, pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, which sponsored this year’s “Engage California” conference the Saturday before the election. One of the speakers at that event was Lane’s pastor Rob McCoy, who also heads a church in the Calvary Chapel network. McCoy talked about his own decision to run for state assembly in 2014; he lost that election, but then ran for and won a seat on the Thousand Oaks City Council, and in December will become the city’s mayor. At the Engage California event, McCoy bemoaned the fact that so many Christians in California don’t vote or aren’t even registered. Said McCoy, “Had Christians just decided to show up, we would dominate every election up and down the state.”
“We will not lose this state,” he said, encouraging attendees to call as many people as they could before the election. As for the more than 7 million Christians in California he said haven’t registered to vote, “we’re gonna get them in the next election.”
“We’re not giving up on this state,” said McCoy. “This is ours. We are going to infuse the culture with the presence of Christ.” Host pastor Jack Hibbs sounded the same theme, saying California is “worth fighting for.” He told attendees that they had “an amazing opportunity” on Election Day to “make a shock happen in California” and create an “earthquake of righteousness.”
“If you vote Democrat, you’re voting for an abortion movement,” Hibbs said. “But if you vote Republican, it’s a pro-life movement. Listen, I’m not supposed to tell you that.”
In one of the videos by Religious Right figures promoting the Engage California event, Christian-nation “historian” David Barton said, “If California is to be saved, and if its current direction is to be reversed, biblical values must be re-embraced in the public square, and that’s where we as Christian leaders can play a role.” Also promoting the pastor events was anti-LGBTQ activist and pastor Jim Garlow.
Since the election, Lane has complained that Democratic Governor-elect Gavin Newsom was elected “by California evangelicals who stayed home on Election Day.”