Who Is Trying to Disqualify Vietnamese Voters’ Ballots in AD-72? [updated]


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Update: I’m going to leave the post up mostly as is, but I’m going to repost a comment from below that explains my current state of understanding.  You may want to start reading below Vern’s correction and then come back up here to finish.

Here’s what I can piece together as I finish this post:

(1) Travis ALLEN’s people have GOLD badges. The YELLOW badges (with which the gold badges might be confused) are for people UNAFFILIATED with any campaign — which in practice generally seems to be with Edgar. Daisy Tong and the blonde woman (whose name I think I know, but I won’t publish it at least for now) are yellow badgers.

(2) Tong apparently told some in the Perez camp (Orange badges) that she was going after Republican voters because the Edgar campaign wants to run against Dovinh in the general — so given that she might end up targeting some in, for example, Garden Grove, she might actually end up helping Perez. More than one person says that she said this — but it could have been disinformation.

(3) Someone — I’m not sure who, but they were probably wearing either yellow or gold — challenged a WHOLE LOT of Vietnamese-named provisional ballots that otherwise would have gone into yesterday’s count, surely depressing the numbers of either Dovinh or Pham, and probably both. This attempted ballot massacre was almost wholly unsuccessful; all it did was make Neal Kelley and those observing him work overtime making the determinations. (Kelly seems to have gotten universal accolades for his conscientious decision, which sometimes involved a fair bit of detective work.) Note that unless you see someone actually make a challenge, you don’t know who made it; the ballot just gets marked with a post-it saying “challenged” and no further information.

(4) My source from the Dovinh campaign — who, for reasons I’m sure I don’t even need to justify, I will choose to call “Poe” — says that he did see Tong go after at least one Vietnamese Republican voter and he thought there was more than one Vietnamese target. Sources from the Perez campaign told me today that they saw her go after white Republican voters, who were a large part of the group challenged (which would be good news for Allen, given the widespread rejection of the challenges.)

(5) If the scenario of Tong trying to disqualify white Republican provisional ballots is correct, then either Allen’s people were going after Vietnamese Democrats or no one was going after Vietnamese Democrats. I don’t think that we can find out at this point, making it impossible to say whether Team Edgar’s efforts were to disqualify voters based on party membership or on race/ethnicity. (The irony, of course, is that he was trying to disqualify voters based on their sharing his own party membership — or maybe that’s not so odd given that Daly is doing the same with Democrats in AD-69.)

(6) While I think that the evidence points to Edgar going after voters based on party membership alone, I have one problem with it: it’s a major tactical blunder. Unless he is more afraid of Long Pham than of Allen, as I have hypothesized, he should not be going after Vietnamese Republicans AT ALL, for one simple reason: a fair amount of Vietnamese Republicans will have voted for Dovinh. Dovinh was a political independent until recently, married to a prominent Vietnamese Republican City Councilwoman, and should have done quite well in the Viet community. There is no reason at all to think that Vietnamese Republican provisional ballot votes were overwhelmingly for Long Pham. Let’s say that Dovinh got a third of them — and let’s call that 200 votes. That could be the difference between Dovinh beating Allen and losing to him. The problem is that it could also be — although it would not necessarily be — enough to allow Pham pass Dovinh.

So I cannot say definitively that, despite the large number of Vietnamese voters that were evidently challenged, it was an attempt to do so on the basis of race. I can say that if Edgar would prefer being in the runoff against Dovinh, but that his second choice was to go against Pham, then challenging even a single Vietnamese vote was a serious blunder that could conceivably cost him the campaign — or at least it could have had Neal Kelley not been quite so on the ball.

Vern’s original correction follows. I’d amend it only to say that it’s clear that Daisy Tong was out to suppress at least some Republican Vietnamese votes, that it’s probable but not clear that Travis Allen was out to suppress Viet votes more broadly, and that there’s no reason to think that the hypothesized “Edgar Allen” truce is in the offings.

NB. This story was originally based on faulty intelligence, from a source who will be taken to the woodshed.  Daisy Tong is apparently NOT working for Troy Edgar to suppress all Viet votes so that there will be a Edgar-Allen truce-fight.  I’m not clear if Daisy is involved at all, and with whom.  It is Travis Allen’s people who are trying to suppress the Viet vote, which, even if wrong, at least makes better sense.  Greg will re-write this story when he returns tonight.  Apologies to Daisy and Troy. – V.

This is a follow-up to my earlier post, “A Screwy Batch,” based on my perspective as someone who participated in monitoring the canvass of votes on Monday but could not manage to get to Santa Ana today.  If you haven’t yet read that story, please do, because it has a lot of relevant material that I don’t plan to repeat here.

1.

The results of the canvass on Monday are in many ways night-and-day from what we saw on Tuesday.  Monday was not marked by a whole lot of ballot challenges.  Tuesday, as I understand it, was rife with them.  By comparing the vote totals for the two days in my earlier story, and seeing whose vote total increased by how much, I reached a tentative conclusion: after 3:30 p.m. on Monday, someone started going after Democrats in AD-69 with a vengeance — and Vietnamese Republicans AND Democrats in AD-72.

My time at the Registrar of Voters on Monday led me to a chance encounter with the sole person there at the time who was not wearing badges of Team Perez’s Orange, Team Daly’s White, or Team Barragan’s  Good Government Green (the last of these being only me.)  This was a well-scrubbed, polite, stoutish young blonde woman wearing a yellow badge and watching review of a ballot from Westminster, who answered my friendly question of “so who ya representin’?” with unexpected evasion.  ”Come on,” I said, “it’s either Edgar or Allen!  Allen, right?”  But she did not budge — and  I believe that I referred to her as an Allen supporter, because why would Edgar be there?

I thought almost nothing of it — until Tuesday night.  That was when I got a message from someone who told me that there had been a massive increase in ballot challenges that day — from a team with yellow badges.

“Oh, Travis Allen’s people?” I said breezily.

“No — Troy Edgar’s.”

Were I a real journalist with real journalist’s resources and responsibilities, I would call Troy Edgar himself for comment — but, then, if I were a real journalist I would have access to Troy Edgar’s number.  As a blogger, I’m just going to put the story out there.  It comes from a source that doesn’t really profit from it being from Edgar rather than Allen.  It really has to be one or the other.  The worst that happens is that Edgar and Allen point fingers at each other and say that the other guy is responsible.

And the funny thing is that they could both be right — if the campaigns are in cahoots!

2.

Travis Allen’s motivation for wanting to disqualify ballots from voters with Vietnamese names is obvious: he’s in a close three-way struggle for one last spot in the runoff with Troy Edgar — and the other two guys, Democrat Joe Dovinh and Republican Long Pham, are both Vietnamese.  (The fifth candidate, Tea Partier Albert Ayala, ran on a Democratic line to draw votes away from Dovinh, with great success.)  By disqualifying Vietnamese voters — if, that is, Neal Kelley goes along with the challenges — Allen kills two potential birds with one stone.

Troy Edgar, on the other hand, would seem to have little motivation to go after Dovinh’s votes.  One can probably discount at least a quarter of Ayala’s 13%, meaning that Dovinh might start out with about 31% support of the remaining electorate.  (He will get a bump from Obama’s heading the ballot, though.)  He could conceivably put together a coalition with Pham’s voters — but (as Phu Nguyen found in his battle with Allen Mansoor in 2010) this doesn’t necessarily work that well in practice.

Edgar would presumably have a harder time with Allen as an opponent — although he got 28% of the vote this time to Allen’s 18%, which would be hard for Allen to overcome.  The two of them could compete for the Vietnamese vote — but it’s not clear what the costs and the repercussions of such a strategy would be for the rest of the electorate.  Vietnamese are still a minority in the new 72nd district, after all.  Edgar vs. Allen would potentially be a bitter and expensive fight.

Edgar does have one thing to be concerned about, though: what I call “the Umberg Problem.”  Tom Umberg was, of course, the Democrat who ran to replace Lou Correa when Correa left from his Supervisor’s seat for the State Senate.  Umberg was considered the favorite, especially being up against two Vietnamese candidates — but, rather than splitting the Vietnamese vote, they both beat him.  A recount was required to sort it all out and put Janet Nguyen in power.

Vietnamese voters tend to come out to vote for Vietnamese candidates.  Edgar is no doubt aware of this.

While Edgar may prefer running against Dovinh to running against Allen, he may be most afraid of running against the fourth candidate: Long Pham.  And Long Pham has been closing fast on both Dovinh and Allen — enough so that with enough votes going through, I’ve calculated him to be the likely winner in a runoff.

Vietnamese factional politics in Orange County is complicated.  I know that there are a few unequivocal Democrats around — Mansoor’s opponent Phu Nguyen, Westminster School Board member Bao Nguyen — but Republicans are apparently divided into factions between Van Tran, who lost to Loretta Sanchez in a fiercely fought Congressional campaign in 2010, and Janet Nguyen.  (Yes, these factions are indeed called “Trannies” and “Jannies” — at least by us outside observers.)  Joe Dovinh is married to Republican Garden Grove Councilwoman Dina Nguyen, and I’m not even sure how and where Long Pham and recently defeated Board of Education candidate Ken Nguyen fit in.

It’s really complicated — but Vietnamese generally seem to feel that they deserve more representation than they currently have.  They do not, of course, like being disrespected or taken for granted.

One theory for what’s going on is that Edgar has people out at the Registrar of Voters disqualifying people with Vietnamese names not because he is afraid of Joe Dovinh, but because he is afraid of Long Pham.

There’s more, but I’ll stop there for now.  Let’s go back to Team Yellow Badges.

3.

I do have the name of one woman reported to have been wearing a yellow badge — the alleged “team leader” who my source reports (rightly or wrongly) has been throwing around challenges with abandon.  Her name is Daisy Tong – or, on Facebook, “Daisy Tong Morgan.”  My source “Poe” suggests that she is working for the Edgar campaign to ensure that Allen makes the runoff — perverse as that may sound.  In other words, he suggests that AD-72 Republicans are allegedly trying to use the “Top Two” primary system to get the same result that establishment Democrats are trying to arrange in AD-69.  In AD-69, the aim is to shut out liberal Democrats from the runoff.  In AD-72, the alleged aim is to shut out Vietnamese. I am not convinced of that; but it’s not completely implausible. Tong herself told others that her goal — as an adviser to the leading Republican candidate, let’s recall — was to challenge the ballots of Republican voters so that they could run against a Democrat.

Remember when Loretta Sanchez got into trouble for saying that “the Vietnamese” — she meant the leading Trannies, not the ethnicity as a whole — were “trying to take away [her] seat” in Congress?

This is WAY WORSE THAN THAT.

(If true, of course.)

So the question arises then: who is Daisy Tong?

Mona Shadia of the Daily Pilot gave a reasonable introduction to her in September 2010, when Allan Mansoor gave her $31,000 to help him fend off Phu Nguyen.  She’s a leader in Little Saigon; she and her husband Chad Morgan (who is also Allan Mansoor’s campaign manager) run two political consulting companies out of the same address; Jim Righeimer sits on the board of one of them.  She had been a field representative for Van Tran, but I don’t know whether she is a loyal Trannie.  (She seems to be much more closely affiliated with Mansoor.)

That doesn’t definitively link Daisy Tong to either Allen or Edgar.  So, I looked up their campaign expenditures and found that — bingo – one of them has spent $5000 with Tong’s company “Visteva” and $2000 with her company “Saigon West.”  I checked the other three real candidates — and none of them did so.  Mystery — perhaps — solved!

Whose fingerprints do we find on the payoff check?

[long drumroll]

Troy Edgar’s.

That’s right — it is Troy Edgar’s consultant who apparently (and if I may express my opinion, perversely) is — if my source Poe is to be believed — trying to prevent as many Vietnamese provisional voters as possible from having their votes counted.

But why?  Why risk pulling Travis Allen into the runoff?

Well, my source Poe has one hypothesis — and we’ll all know within five months whether it’s true:

That hypothesis is that the fix is in.  Allen won’t even seriously compete in the runoff.  The Republican nightmare of an expensive runoff in AD-72 is avoided by mutual agreement.

When I read Chris Nguyen’s story in GOP House Organ OC Political, I really thought that he had addressed all of the possibilities:

If they run right, Edgar and Allen can each undercut each other’s bases and grab Pham’s supporters.   If they run left, they can pick up Dovinh and Ayala’s supporters.  Will Edgar and Allen both run right?  Will they both run left?  Will one run right while the other runs left?  Will they attempt to be all things to all people, running right in mail to Republicans, running left in mail to Democrats, and proclaiming their independent/bipartisan/maverick qualities in mail to No Party Preference voters?

In the primary, both men were willing to dip into their personal funds to finance their campaigns.  Edgar dropped $100,000 while Allen dropped $95,500.  (By the way, Pham dropped $100,000 while Dovinh only dropped $1,000.)  Many people will note that candidates often loan their campaigns money to make their warchests look bigger than they actually are.  Well, not in AD-72!  The largest remaining warchest is less than $25,000.  Edgar, Allen, and Pham all spent the bulk of the money they dumped in their campaigns.  To recoup that money, they’re going to have to raise it.

Edgar and Allen will need to spend the summer raising more money or else be willing to dip into their personal fortunes again.  Either way, this should be an interesting November in AD-72, as Democrats laugh at Republican money being spent against Republicans.

I now see, though, that there’s one possibility that Chris didn’t touch: don’t tack at all.  Edgar spends enough to win; Allen raises money and then saves it.  If the race looks to be so tough for both of them, just don’t have the race!

OC Republicans generally would prosper from such an anti-democratic arrangement.  Less angst, less money spent.  (Consultants might be pissed, but they’d get over it.)  But what would Travis Allen get out of the deal — if any?

My source expressed no thoughts on that.  I do have some speculation.

4.

There’s one thing that Troy Edgar could give Travis Allen in exchange for standing down in this year’s AD-72 race that would really mean something: his support for Allen’s race for AD-72 in 2014.

But, but, but — won’t Edgar be running for re-election?

Not necessarily.  There’s another even bigger race in the offings — and that sound you’re about the hear is that of Jose Solorio screaming in pain: Senate District 34, soon to be vacated by Lou Correa.

Go to the peachy website run by former son of Placentia Scott Lay, “Around the Capital,” and you’ll see that the only three likely candidates who have been identified as likely to run in this district are current Assemblymen Jim Silva and Jose Solorio and former Assemblyman Van Tran.  Solorio has burned enough bridges with enough Democrats that he’s probably unelectable if another competent Democrat with less baggage entered the race.  I don’t have a good sense of Jim Silva’s popularity, but I doubt it would exceed Edgar’s in two years if he won big this time out.  And that means that Edgar’s big competition in 2014 could be Van Tran.  If not him, then someone else from the Vietnamese community, such as Supervisor Janet Nguyen.  (Or maybe both will run.)

Again, apply the Umberg Rule: especially if there’s one Vietnamese candidate in the race, they may be hard to beat, and it’s possible that two could make a runoff.

I don’t expect Joe Dovinh or Long Pham, if elected, to run for SD-34.  Either would probably be trying to hang on to AD-72 for dear life; Pham, in particular, would have to defer to one or both of his Republican heavier hitters.

But Pham would be in a good position to help elect whichever of Tran or Jan he prefers — and Edgar could conceivably run for SD-34 even if he lost this race.  He has an extra reason not to want Pham in that seat.  Maybe it messes up his future plans.  (Take a look at where he spent his campaign money.  Don’t kid yourselves, folks; he’s not a RINO.  He is plugged in and well-connected to the OC GOP machine.)

So Edgar might well be willing to trade his support for Allen in 2014 for an easier race — during which time he could build his campaign war chest and start collecting chits for future favors — this year.  He’s young and ambitious — he was originally running for CA-47, remember?  He could go far.

His next step, if this is so, would be to keep Long Pham — and, if he does have a deal with Allen, Joe Dovinh too — out of the runoff.  And in Daisy Tong, he hired someone willing and able to do it — without being quite so easily accused of racism.  (She becomes, in effect, the Republican equivalent of Jose Solorio in AD-69.)

[Note added on 6/13 -- Do I personally believe this? No, I think that the idea that they were just trying to disqualify Republicans is more likely. But if they went after Vietnamese ballots at all, given their expressed desire to see Dovinh make the runoff, it was a pretty spectacular blunder -- and that in turn makes that hypothesis less likely.]

5.

Just to complete the train of thought, let’s imagine for a moment that Edgar’s purging Viet votes to get Allen into the runoff and then skate uncontested to the finish line is true. What then?

Young Vietnamese Democrats in Orange County seem optimistic that their community is already starting to turn towards the Democratic Party.  As with Cubans, the resentments of decades past recede in time.  Saber-rattling about retaking ancestral territory may still elicit applause, but as with Cuba but nobody seems to be seriously doing anything about it.  It would take a signal event — maybe a series of them — for the Vietnamese community to decide that it was, finally, just plain sick of the county Republican Party.

Imagine the following in the near future:

  • cooperation to keep Vietnamese candidates (from either party) out of the AD-72 runoff
  • actually seeking, with the aid of a Vietnamese politico married to a white campaign manager for a racist Assemblyman, to disenfranchise legitimate Vietnamese voters to achieve this end
  • an Edgar-Allen de facto truce in the runoff, relieving either from the need to cater to the Vietnamese community
  • cooperation to clear the field for Allen in AD-72 and Edgar in SD-37 in 2014

Imagine for a moment that that’s all true. Here’s my question: at what point do the Vietnamese voters of Orange County just get sick of being treated this way?  Move Vietnamese voters into the Democratic party and there’s a new ballgame for control, much more broadly than in just one district.  (Democrats already know how to play the ethnic coalition game.)

And here’s a follow-up: If Vietnamese voters eventually do get sick of it, will they look back to this year, and this race, as a turning point in that direction?  What Daisy Tong will have done this week may help to answer that question.


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney and General Counsel of CATER. His anti-corruption work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, leading them to work with the Democratic Party of Orange County Chair and other co-conspirators (who had long detested the internal oversight his presence provided) to remove him from the position of DPOC North Vice Chair of in violation of party rules and any semblance of due process. He also runs for office sometimes. Unless otherwise specifically stated, none of his writings prior to that lawless putsch ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Beautiful Bountiful Brea, but while he may brag about it he generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for candidates including Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and (except where noted) without compensation.