So Long, Pham! Dovinh is Last Vietnamese Standing in AD-72. (Or IS he?)

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Long Pham
The most dangerous job in politics: Vietnamese Republican candidate in AD-72.

Back when we redistricting geeks were attending Commission hearings last year, what would become AD-72 was supposed to be “the Vietnamese district.”  Combining virtually all of Little Saigon, in response to extensive lobbying by the Vietnamese community in the Santa Ana hearing, AD-72 was a de facto recognition that the Vietnamese community was finally large enough to dominate its own Assembly district even in the absence of a charismatic boss-man like Van Tran.

It is not turning out that way — not by a longshot.  The non-Little Saigon portion of the district also included all but southeastern  Huntington Beach up the coast through Seal Beach and Los Alamitos, then north through the other portions of Westminster and Garden Grove — and it looks like Republican candidates from there will have driven out all Vietnamese candidates but the sole serious Democrat.  (Albert Ayala, you can write in and make your case if you want to dispute that, but {“Albert Ayala” Assembly} got 247 Google hits while {“Joe Dovinh” Assembly} got over 7300.  Just saying.)

The Registrar of Voters website indicates that yesterday Long Pham was issued his nomination papers and Declaration of Candidacy for seat 1 on the Orange County Board of Education (where he currently serves) — seemingly a good indication that he is dropping his bid for Assembly.  This follows Los Alamitos Councilmember Troy Edgar’s moving into the race after leaving the high-rolling CD-37 race.  Huntington Beach Councilmember Matthew Harper was already in the race.  Albert Ayala and Anthony Stuart Pinkston (who does not appear to be well known) have also taken out papers; Ayala has filed.  Westminster Councilmember Tyler Diep had also announced plans to run, but dropped out last week before taking out papers.

The upshot of all this is: Joe Dovinh looks like the luckiest politico in the county.  Not only is he the only serious Democrat left in the race but, presuming that Pham really does scram, he is the only candidate left of Vietnamese ancestry in any party.  In a district where Vietnamese voters have shown themselves willing to vote on ethnic heritage over party — not a bad idea, given the apparent purge of Vietnamese Republicans from the voting menu — this means that Dovinh is even more likely to make the runoff against either Harper or Edgar.  Now, though, while they tear one another apart, he can stay above the fray and consolidate his support in the Vietnamese community all year long.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Republicans try to gin up an anti-Dovinh candidate before March 9 rather than give Dovinh such a leg up.  (If the Republican race is nasty enough and turns off voters, he could already end up with 40% of the primary vote — or more.)  But with Harper and Edgar in a death-lock right now and the prospect of both of them surviving until November diminishing, they may not want to waste and fire on Dovinh.

(Faithful readers know that Dovinh has been a source of controversy here due to actions of his related to Phu Nguyen’s 2010 Assembly campaign; a story exploring just what did go on and why has been initiated and is still brewing.  Competitor publications, feel welcome to beat us to it.)

I don’t know what Dovinh was imagining the situation might look like in late February, back when he announced for this race, but I doubt that he thought that his path to the runoff — and to the Vietnamese vote there — would be quite this clear.

About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Runs for office sometimes, so far to offer a challenge to someone nasty who would otherwise have run unopposed. Someday he might pick a fight intending to win it rather than just to dent someone. You'll know it when you see it. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. A family member works part-time as a campaign treasurer. He doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he hated. He does advise some local campaigns informally and generally without compensation. If that changes, he will declare the interest. He also runs a less frequently published blog called "The Brean," for his chosen hometown, where he is now fighting with its wealthiest and most avaricious citizen-donors. This just seems to be his way.