Lottery winner running for Congress in OC's tight 39th District race

Josh Haskell Image
Friday, October 19, 2018
Lottery winner running for Congress in OC
Democrat Gil Cisneros has used $8 million of his lottery winnings in his race against Republican Young Kim for the Orange County-based 39th District congressional seat.

LA HABRA, Calif. (KABC) -- With early voting underway, volunteers at Young Kim's La Habra field office are making their final pitch to voters.

California's 39th District, which is mostly in Orange County but includes parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, is one of the most competitive congressional races in the country.

ABC News' political analysis site FiveThirtyEight has forecast the race between Republican Young Kim and Democrat Gil Cisneros as a toss-up.

"Someone who just moved into the district and his connection is when he was dating his wife, before they got married. I don't think you can call that a strong connection to the community, compared to someone who has raised a family here, worked in the community, represented them," said Young Kim, talking about Cisneros.

Kim spent two decades working for the retiring congressman of the 39th, Ed Royce, who has endorsed Kim. But Cisneros has tied his opponent to President Donald Trump who is very unpopular in a district that Hillary Clinton won by more than eight points.

"She's trying to distance herself from him, but that's not working. People know who she is. They know that she's tied to Trump, that she supports his agenda, whether it's tearing kids away from their parents down at the border, his lack of support for education," said Cisneros.

"I support the policies coming from Washington D.C. if it is helping my district," Kim said. "For example I believe the tax reform is helping our economy grow. When I differ with the administration and Washington leadership, I say so. So I'm an independent bipartisan person and I have proven that."

Although Kim and Cisneros have raised about the same amount of outside money, just under $1 million, Cisneros has put $8 million of his own money into the race.

So how did the Navy vet Cisneros make his money?

He won the lottery.

In 2010, Cisneros and his wife won $266 million and since then have invested in education.

"Me and my wife have been very lucky and very fortunate. We've shared that good fortune by investing in students through scholarships, college access programs, supporting elementary education both in reading and math," said Cisneros.

But Kim says this race is about knowing and serving the community. And she wants voters to know Donald Trump and Ed Royce aren't on the ballot, she is.

"I do believe that humans contribute to climate change. The use of the oil and gas production to renewable energy using wind and solar. Give more incentive to encourage innovation so we can use technology to fix this problem," said Kim.