The Pakistan-born doctor faces tough odds. Mahmood is challenging a Republican incumbent in a right-leaning district during a midterm election that, for now, is expected to favor the GOP.
But Mahmood’s announcement Thursday came with endorsements from 17 big players on the Democratic side, from Rep. Mike Levin to state Attorney General Rob Bonta to Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan. His campaign also has help from Nathan Click, who has worked as communications for Gov. Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris. And while Mahmood didn’t make it into the 2018 primary for state insurance commissioner, he did receive 13.5% of the vote and raised more than $2 million in that election cycle.
“For more than 20 years, I have helped patients overcome their health challenges and go on to lead richer lives,” Mahmood said. “I am running for Congress because CA-40 needs leaders who wake up every day to solve problems and actually help families in our district.”
Neither Mahmood nor Kim currently live in CA-40. Residency isn’t required for federal office, but it is considered favorable both politically and in terms of serving residents.
Mahmood, 60, now lives in Bradbury, in the San Gabriel Valley. But his campaign said he plans to move to Tustin to run for this seat.
Kim’s current district, CA-39, includes portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties and her hometown of La Habra. But after the state Citizens Redistricting Commission approved new political boundaries for districts last month, Kim’s home was drawn into a primarily Los Angeles County district. So Kim, 59, announced she’s running in the new CA-40. Her campaign hasn’t responded to requests about whether she’ll move to the district.
The new 40th District covers eastern Orange County, from Yorba Linda to Rancho Mission Viejo, plus Chino Hills in San Bernardino County. Voter registration in the majority White district shows Republicans with a 5.6 point advantage over Democrats.
Mahmood wasted no time going after Kim, noting in his campaign announcement that Kim opposes abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act, bans on offshore oil drilling and the federal $1 trillion infrastructure bill approved last fall.
“Families in the new 40th district work hard. We put our heads together to solve problems. When our neighbors face hard times, we help each other,” Mahmood said. “But politicians like Congresswoman Young Kim aren’t lifting a finger to help families here at home. Our country has big problems, but Congresswoman Kim is fighting against common-sense solutions that have broad bipartisan support.”
Mahmood is touting his support for abortion rights and more affordable healthcare, noting that when patients come into his practice without insurance he won’t ask for payment. He says he’ll also “fight to end our addiction to Big Oil” and to improve California’s road and bridges.
During her first term, Kim has touted her work to pass pass legislation to support small businesses during the pandemic and to provide veterans with information in multiple languages. While she’s voted in line with her party on most major bills, she also has broken ranks a couple times, including a vote to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA, of her committee assignments.
On Thursday, Kim’s team announced that she raised more than $1.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2021, giving her $4 million in funds raised this cycle and leaving her with nearly $2.6 million cash at the end of the year.
“Rep. Kim has a proven track record of being an effective lawmaker who stands up for working class families, delivers on her campaign promises, and who has the courage to stand up to the Washington establishment and their out-of-touch agenda,” campaign spokesman Sam Oh said when asked about the new challenger. “That’s why she has a broad base of grassroots support.”
Oh also took a dig at Mahmood: “We look forward to a spirited campaign against a candidate hand-picked by Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Democrats. Good luck with that.”
Mahmood had $25,646 sitting in an open campaign fund to run for state controller as of the last filing update.
Despite Mahmood’s credentials, Fred Smoller, political science professor at Chapman University, said conditions currently don’t look great for a Democratic challenger.
“Incumbents have several built-in advantages… which is why they win most of the time,” Smoller said.
“It’s hardly a level playing field in the best of times, and I don’t think we are anywhere near the best of times given $5 gas and COVID.”
While while Kim will have the powerful “incumbent” designation next to her name on the ballot, Jodi Balma, political science professor at Fullerton College, noted she will be new to most of the residents in CA-40. That means Kim will need to spend a lot of money introducing herself to those voters, which could give Mahmood a window to break through.