Retired Calif. fire captain announces run for Congress
Joe Kerr served with the Orange County Fire Authority and Orange County Fire Department for over 30 years
By Hanna Kang
The Orange County Register
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — Retired fire captain Joe Kerr is aiming to flip California’s Republican-held 40th congressional district in 2024.
A second-generation firefighter who served with the Orange County Fire Authority and Orange County Fire Department for over 30 years, Kerr said he’s running to untangle the “gridlock” in Washington.
“For the last three decades, I’ve been running toward the problem — inside burning buildings, putting out fires, responding to disasters, and saving lives,” Kerr said. “We need someone who will run toward the problems facing our nation.”
Kerr, a Democrat who bills himself as a moderate with fiscal conservative values, said his focus is on public safety, keeping the government funded, protecting abortion access, addressing California’s wildfire and drought issues and working toward solutions for affordable housing and homelessness.
“Public service has always been a priority in my family, and running for Congress is another way for me to utilize what I’ve learned over the years to continue giving back to my community,” said Kerr.
This is Kerr’s third time running for public office. Last year, he ran for the California state Senate against state Sen. Catherine Blakespear and Matt Gunderson, now a candidate in the 49th congressional district. In 2018, Kerr ran a tight race for the Orange County Board of Supervisors’ Fourth District.
And while Kerr has never held elected office, he has held several state and local appointed positions. Kerr has served with several organizations that deal with political advocacy on behalf of various labor and firefighter groups, including the California Professional Firefighters and OC Central Labor Council.
In 2020, Kerr was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, where he served as vice chair in the Santa Ana region until the end of last year. In this role, he was responsible for enforcing water quality and cleanup objectives in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, he said.
“Over the course of my career, I have worked on scores of public safety legislation at the local, state and national levels,” said Kerr. “Public safety is not red or blue, it is a universal issue that affects all citizens regardless of our political ideologies.”
The 40th congressional district covers eastern Orange County as well as portions of western San Bernardino and Riverside counties. It is represented by Rep. Young Kim, R-Anaheim Hills, who is running for reelection.
A Kim campaign spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Tustin Unified School District trustee Allyson Muñiz Damikolas, who was elected in 2020 as the school board’s first Latina Democrat, also recently entered the CA-40 race.
Republicans have the advantage in the district with nearly 38% registered voters compared to Democrats’ 33.6% and the 22.6% who list no party preference.