Chen drops out of CD-39; Fails to Endorse Anyone

Jay Chen (D) Candidate for Congress 39th District, CA (Photo: Chris Prevatt)

Jay Chen, believed to be the strongest Democratic candidate in CD-39 for Ed Royce’s old seat, has dropped out of the race citing the need for Democrats to cull the list to improve odds of having a Democrat finish in the top two.  His press release is below but one has to wonder what polling and research showed Chen leading to this decision.






We have a unique opportunity to flip Congressional District 39 and restore accountability to Washington D.C.  I believe my experience, values, and roots in the district make me the best candidate to represent this community.  That is why I waged an uphill battle in 2012 to flip this seat, and it is why I entered the 2018 race.

I am humbled that so many have supported my candidacy, including delegates of the Democratic Party, Indivisible CA39, Progressive 39th, and leaders such as Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congressman Mark Takano, Supervisor Janice Hahn, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, Assemblyman Ian Calderon, and so many others.

But the reality is that with the top-two open primary system in California and a crowded field, the path for a Democratic victory is a narrow one.  As of now 9 Democratic candidates and 7 Republican candidates have filed for a primary in which Republican turnout may remain higher than Democratic turnout.  The probability of two Republicans advancing in November, and Democrats squandering a historic opportunity, is real.

We cannot let this chance slip by.  The stakes are far too high, not just for our country, but also for a world that once looked to the United States as a beacon of hope and democracy.  Instead, we are seeing a movement towards authoritarianism across the globe that is not just being condoned, but mimicked by the President of the United States.  The Republican-controlled Congress has done nothing to stop this degradation, which is why we must flip Congress, and we cannot flip Congress unless Democrats win this seat.

The greatest contribution I can make right now is to help consolidate the field, by stepping away from it.  We cannot afford to let this seat slip away, and we must all put the greater good over personal ambition.

This was not an easy decision to make.  Polling and endorsements show that I am the strongest Democrat for the open primary.  We have opened our office, hired staff, and made significant investments in this race.  Many have upended their lives and made major contributions to see this campaign succeed.  But after close consultation with mentors, friends, family and staff, we believe this difficult decision is the right decision, for us, for our district, and for the Democratic majority we need to guide our country.

While I will not be on the ballot, I will stay involved.  I look forward to using my platform as a community college trustee to continue the fight to make higher education more affordable, and student loans less crushing.  I’ll continue to advocate for better care of our returning warriors so they can better transition to civilian life.  As the recent shooting in Yountville has demonstrated, we must do more to assist our veterans with PTSD, and we must do more protect our community from gun violence.  Finally, I look forward to continuing my work as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserves where I can serve alongside Sailors who have taken the same oath candidates take, to protect and defend our Constitution.

Locally, we must fight hard for Democratic representation in District 39.  We must oppose the recall on State Senator Josh Newman.  Most importantly, we must support good local candidates for critical local seats and strengthen our pipeline of experienced and qualified Democratic public servants, so that progressive voices can guide our government.

I want to thank my wife Karen, all of my supporters, and my team: Eugene, Robbie, Fiona, Emily, Derek and Shan.  Should our efforts to flip the 39th fall short this time, I will reengage for 2020.  In the meantime we all have important work to do.

Chen’s decision prompted an announcement from Congressional Reps Judy Chu and Mark Takano:



As Asian American leaders in Congress, we were very excited when Jay Chen announced his candidacy for the 39th Congressional District.

As the only Democratic candidate in this race that has ever run or held local office, and as the candidate that has lived in the district the longest, we are confident that Jay Chen is the best fit for this district.   This is why we wholeheartedly endorsed his candidacy, and why Jay has garnered the grassroots support and key endorsements in this race.  Congress is not an entry-level job, and Jay has shown the commitment to service and community that we need in Washington DC.

Winning the 39th District is key to Democratic chances to retake the House and stand up to President Donald Trump.  Trump’s unpopular presidency has led to an unprecedented number of first-time candidates running across the country, including Southern California.  While we are excited about the enthusiasm, we are also aware that with California’s top-two primary system, large numbers of Democratic candidates could split the vote and send two Republicans to the general election.  District 39 faces that dilemma.

Jay Chen’s personal decision not to run, so that the Democratic vote can be consolidated instead of fractured, is a remarkable sacrifice for a greater cause that further speaks to his character.  We applaud his selfless commitment to public service and thank all of his supporters who have backed him thus far.  We believe this is the right decision and we look forward to supporting Jay again in the future.


Congresswoman Judy Chu is the immediate past chair of ASPIRE PAC, which focuses on supporting candidates of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent and those that support and promote the issues of the AAPI community.

Congressman Mark Takano is the Co-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, which leads efforts in the House of Representatives to advance LGBT equality, and an executive member of ASPIRE PAC.

California’s 39th congressional district includes parts of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties, including Fullerton, La Habra, La Habra Heights, Brea, Buena Park, Anaheim Hills, Placentia, Yorba Linda, Diamond Bar, Chino Hills, Hacienda Heights, and Rowland Heights.

No Democratic candidate received the pre-caucus party endorsement and this race was not eligible for the CDP Convention’s consent calendar; of the contested OC congressional races, CD-39 is the most likely to gain a top two finish for the Republicans.  Maybe its the pace of fundraising not meeting expectations.

If Chen really wants to cull the list of Democrats running, he should endorse someone.