Allan Mansoor, the Uniter. Pt 1: Costa Mesa Republican Ladies meet to support Phu.

I don’t want to hear ONE MORE PERSON bitch about what a “divider” Costa Mesa mayor Allan Mansoor is!  All I’ve SEEN in recent weeks is the amazing, inspiring UNITY he creates.  We have  whites, Latinos, Asian and Arab Americans, Republicans, Libertarians, Democrats, Greens and independents, environmentalists, good-government advocates, businessmen large and small, police, firefighters, teachers, rich people, poor people and middle-class people all singing Kumbayah while holding hands throughout the 68th Assembly District – when is the last time we can remember this happening?

Of course, all these people are united in OPPOSITION to Allan’s assembly candidacy, but – well, who’s to say that’s not the secret goal of this mysterious, quiet man?  In any case, it’s only right to express our gratitude to the Minuteman Mayor for bringing us all together in support of his opponent, the charismatic Mater Dei fullback, phenomenally successful businessman and family guy Phu Nguyen.

Corinne Stover and Phu Nguyen

Yesterday I swung by Costa Mesa to check out the special coffee lifelong Republican & Goldwater girl Corinne Stover was holding for her Republican friends, allowing them to get to know Phu and ask questions.  It was a small but passionate group – probably less than a dozen – although at least one claimed to be representing half a dozen friends who had “church commitments” that afternoon.  I think they were all Republicans – I didn’t get a chance to speak with all of them – and at least half of them seemed to be either teachers or substitute teachers.

And, to a woman, they all left satisfied, energized, all their questions and concerns answered, eager to begin walking their neighborhoods for Phu.

It was interesting to talk to so many folks who are firmly opposed to Mansoor, and have been following his career closely for eight years, and to never hear the immigration issue brought up once.  For a lot of us, it’s the first thing we think of when we think of Allan, and I’m not sure how these ladies feel about his draconian anti-immigrant measures (or, I should mostly say, gestures.)  I didn’t ask either.  Their litany of complaints against Allan were that he’s just “not smart enough” for the job, that he will “just do whatever the Central Committee tells him to do,” that he’s “narrow-minded,” won’t listen to or work with others, too damn stubborn and won’t compromise on anything.

And always the nagging knowledge of just how isolated and ineffective the poor guy would be if we packed him off to Sacramento, given that:

  1. He’ll be in the minority party, just like the utterly impotent Van Tran has been all these years;
  2. He’s already worked hard to alienate both labor and the Latino caucus;
  3. As I put it, “Add to all that his natural inabilities,” a phrase which Corinne repeated to herself in a murmur, savoring it with a wicked smile.

But as disenchanted as they were with Allan, they were just as impressed – enchanted – with Phu.

At times it seemed like a workshop for Phu on how best to talk to Republican Christians (not that it came unnaturally.)  “Oh!  I like how you said that!”  “Perfect answer.”  “Make sure you always emphasize that!”  As he described his life story and expressed how appreciative he is of America and how he just wants to give back, Corinne gushed, “What I love is your ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE.”  When one lady asked how she could be sure he was only going to Sacramento for six assembly years and wasn’t just going to become a career politician, he not only emphasized how difficult it was going to be for him to be away from his family for six years, he also pointed out, “I made a pledge to my wife.”  “Ooh!  A pledge to your wife!  Perfect answer.”  And we took note.

Like I said though, it all came pretty naturally;  Phu’s wife is actually a Republican (although she briefly switched so she could back him in the primary!)  The ladies were comfortable with his nuanced pro-life position;  he personally opposes abortion and would never support a stand-alone bill which funds it; apart from that Planned Parenthood has expressed “99% approval” of his positions, in favor of all contraception, morning-after pill and comprehensive sex education, and pledging not to support any legislation that limits access to reproductive services.

Phu the businessman speaks passionately about the importance of small businesses and providing incentives for them to expand.  Fun fact I didn’t know – the 68th Assembly District contains more small businesses than any other district in the state!

When talking about education everyone in the room was on the same page, agreeing that Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, was one of his worst appointments, and that his “Race to the Top” is even worse than Bush’s unfunded “No Child Left Behind.”  Phu described how similar the newfangled “teach to the test” policies are to the education in the Communist Vietnam he’s so critical of – similarly stultifying, never encouraging kids to think on their own, outside the box.  The room full of grade school teachers couldn’t have agreed more.  It felt refreshingly subversive – us Democratic activists and Republican teachers united against Bush, Obama, the Communist Vietnamese government, and probably Mansoor.

“I love this list of things you want to accomplish in Sacramento,” someone piped up, “but how exactly are you going to do it?  What’s your game plan?”  And disarmingly, Phu responded, “To be honest, I don’t know exactly.”  He continued, “First of all, I’m going to make sure to hire the smartest staff I can find.  Then I’m going to try my hardest to get on these three key committees:  Education, Business and Professions, and Aging.”  I can report that the anticipation of Phu’s victory in Sacramento is so palpable that he will be received as a conquering hero, and will have a great chance of getting on the committees he wants to be on.

There was talk of how badly Costa Mesa has been run these last eight years, of its $16 million deficit (which put city council in a place where Facilities Management West’s payoff to have 55-year cart-blanche with our Fairgrounds was irresistible.)  How did it get that way?  A big factor was the Mansoor council’s utterly craven tax policy toward business.  Here’s another fact I didn’t know:  The Nordstrom in Santa Ana’s Main Place pays the city of Santa Ana $50,000 a year, and manages just fine.  Meanwhile the South Coast Plaza Nordstrom, which just happens to be the highest grossing Nordstrom in the world, pays Costa Mesa a mere FIFTY BUCKS A YEAR. Courtesy of Mansoor extremism, which we don’t need to export to Sacramento.

I’ll end with this:  Phu likes to remind people of the John Wesley passage on the front page of his website, which is something he seriously tries to live by, and wants to be his guiding principle in Sacramento as well:

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

And one lady laughed, “Yes, our pastor saw that on your website, and he stole it and used it for his sermon last Sunday.”

Oh, they are out walking now…

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.