Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Gay candidate pulls ahead in SoCal congressional race

Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen is running for a southern California congressional seat. Photo: Courtesy Nguyen for Congress

Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen is running for a southern California congressional seat.
Photo: Courtesy Nguyen for Congress

On Election night gay Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen was trailing a Republican opponent in his bid for a congressional seat in southern California, putting him in third place in the eight-person contest.

But with additional ballots now counted, Nguyen has moved into second place in the race for the 46th Congressional District seat in Orange County. The current officeholder, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), placed second in the June primary behind front-runner state Attorney General Kamala Harris in their race for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat.

Nguyen’s vote tally as of Tuesday morning, according to the unofficial returns posted by the secretary of state’s office, stands at 13,259, or 14.6 percent of the vote. Republican Bob Peterson, a commander in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, is now in third place with 11,640 votes, or 12.8 percent.

Former state Senator Lou Correa remains the first place finisher in the primary. The Democrat’s lead has now grown to 39,548 votes, or 43.4 percent, and he is widely viewed as the likely winner come November due to the large number of Latino voters in the district.

Nonetheless, Democrat Nguyen’s victory in the primary, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation advance to the general election, is another sign of the Republican Party’s diminishment in California. And a signal of the GOP’s increasing difficulty to win elections in areas of the state long seen as more conservative, particularly Orange County.

But an influx of new residents, many people of color, has lessened the GOP’s political chances in the county south of Los Angeles.

Nguyen, who only came out publicly last summer, issued a statement this morning following the release of the latest vote count in the race.

“I am immensely grateful to everybody who has supported me in this race. This election isn’t about who has the most money. It’s about the hardworking middle and working class families of Orange County,” stated Nguyen. “Washington is broken, and we know that sending another politician who’s in the pocket of special interests isn’t going to fix it. We need somebody in Washington who has a record of fighting corruption, not participating in it. The era of big money, special interests, and corporate lobbyists running Washington is over, and I’m here to fight to the finish.”

As noted in the Bay Area Reporter‘s Political Notebook column last fall, Nguyen would be the first out immigrant to serve in Congress. Born in a Thailand refugee camp, where his parents and several of his six siblings had sought refuge after escaping Vietnam, Nguyen came to the U.S. three months later and grew up in southern California. He became a U.S. citizen at the age of 12.

He had served on the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education then, in 2014, was elected the city’s mayor, becoming the country’s first directly-elected Vietnamese American Democratic mayor. He is his city’s first Vietnamese American and first openly LGBTQ mayor.

In the primary race, neither Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, nor the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports LGBT candidates seeking political office, endorsed Nguyen.

Should he defeat Correa, Nguyen would be the second out member of California’s congressional delegation, joining gay Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside), who is expected to easily win a third term in November.

— Matthew S. Bajko, June 21, 2016 @ 12:02 pm PST
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