Brilliant, just brilliant: THREE Viets line up against Matt Harper in the 72nd AD.




Straight outta Little Saigon: Tyler Diep, Long Pham, Joe Dovinh

You’d think from the look of things, wouldn’t you, that Orange County’s Vietnamese-American community, selflessly consenting to sabotage themselves in the one place where redistricting seemed to favor them (the 72nd Assembly Disctrict) had made an agreement with Huntington Beach Democrats and moderates to help kick Jannie Republican Matt Harper upstairs so that he can be replaced by a better HB councilman – say, the no-longer termed-out Jill Hardy.  But that really wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

Okay, I know, given the newfangled Jungle Primary, one of these guys is likely to make it to November’s runoff, but still…

In contrast to the new State Senate and Congressional Districts which diluted the power of OC’s Viet community by breaking it up, the new 72nd Assembly District includes all of what we call Little Saigon, combined with the white Republican areas of Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, and northern Huntington Beach.  When we Democrats looked at the lines and the numbers, we thought, there IS one way we could win this seat despite the 43% – 32% Republican advantage, and that would be with the RIGHT Vietnamese Democrat.  But unfortunately, as I’ve already reported here, Phu Nguyen is going to sit this one out.

So.  For nearly a decade, before he was termed out last year and replaced with Costa Mesa’s glum one-note Mexican basher Allan Mansoor, the Little Saigon area was represented by “Boss” Van Tran, who ruled with an iron fist, mentored a gaggle of acolytes popularly known as “Trannies,” and punished all aspiring Viet pols who would oppose him.  Tyler Diep, a loyal member of the Trannie majority on the Westminster City Council and an adviser to Equalizer Michelle Steel, was to be Van’s anointed successor in the newly drawn Viet district.  A mighty fundraiser, Tyler boasts the endorsement of Ms. Steel, and a campaign staff headed by the venerable Tran and the comical ex-Capo trustee Ken Lopez-Maddox-Lopez, who also answers to Michelle.

Lucky cat Matt Harper (pic from Surf City Voice)

But, as it turns out, Tyler Diep is not the choice of the ultimate OC GOP bosses Scott Baugh and Mike Schroeder – that would be lilywhite budding career politician Matthew Harper, who, less than a year after winning a seat on the Huntington Beach City Council, is already looking to move up the ladder.  If you’ll recall, I broke the news here that the tireless and sweaty-palmed GOP bagman Jon Fleischman was caught hectoring Ms. Steel into rescinding her endorsement of Diep – now we know for which white insider’s benefit.

I’d think OC’s Vietnamese-Americans should really resent the OC GOP for this affront – probably the one district in all California where Viets have a decent shot at electing a candidate to state office, and the powers-that-be shunt them aside for an utterly undistinguished young Caucasian.  One recalls ex-GG Councilman Andrew Do‘s bitter parting remarks that the “OC GOP kingmakers have no respect for Viet politicians.”  (And if you tell me the white insider OC Democrats are doing the exact same thing to our Latino community by coalescing around Tom Daly, you would be ONE HUNDRED PERCENT RIGHT.)

Matt is a disciple and subordinate of Supervisor Janet Nguyen (aka a “Jannie”) – I remember when he took the oath of office last year, the other new councilmembers brought up their families with them, while Matt brought up Janet.  And no, the backing of Janet does not translate into any Viet support, especially after her Black April Fiasco of last year.  [The mysterious, anonymous, “admin” from the New Santa Ana blog has listed many good reasons to oppose Matt Harper;  but the vehemence with which this admin approaches the task, and conversely embraces the reactionary Trannie Diep, leads one to suspect that he or she may have had a painful and tortured history with the Black April Queen.]

Enter Two Perennial Viet Vanity Candidates.

So, it’s gonna be hard enough for Mr. Diep to take on a white, anointed GOP candidate – how about if MORE Viet candidates rush into the fray?

There are several things Dr. Long Pham and Joe Dovinh have in common besides being perennial vanity candidates from Little Saigon with small followings.  They both jumped into the race between Phu Nguyen and Allan Mansoor last year, Pham as a Republican and Dovinh as a Democrat.  They both told me they were more anti-Mansoor than anti-Phu.  And yet, after losing the June primary, they both took to the local Vietnamese radio and TV doing Mansoor’s dirty work by tirelessly (and absurdly) labeling Phu a “communist” – in of course the only community where anyone still takes that label seriously.  [These people always think the rest of us will never hear what they say on Viet radio and TV – if our own Viet friends don’t catch it, we’ll read about it on the Bolsavik!  By the way, Phu still got 80% of the Viet vote – because the folks there know and trust him.]

Dr. Long Pham is on the OC Board of Education, while Mr. Dovinh’s main claim to fame is being the husband of Republican Garden Grove Councilwoman and Trannie Dina Nguyen (not sure how Mr. Tran is taking Joe’s running against his guy this year.)  In a wide-ranging and very entertaining interview Joe did with me last year, he  put a lot of effort into convincing me that he was an actual Democrat and not a Trannie plant, and sure enough he has been a registered Democrat for several years.  But I notice that in his press release of last week announcing his candidacy, he doesn’t mention his Party.  Sure, it’s an open primary, in a district with a GOP advantage, but still – there are tens of thousands of white Democrats who have no idea who he is and will be looking for a Democrat to support.  Bad move, especially when so many Democrats who DO know and remember you don’t trust you.  [Joe’s campaign is being run by OJ friend and Democrat Jim Benson, for what that’s worth.]

Making Lemonade from this Lemon

As a resident of the 72nd District, I find none of these four candidates worth supporting, and cannot picture voting for any of them.  Knowing my neighbors, I’m pretty much resigned to a Matt Harper victory.  (According to the New Santa Ana blog, that makes me a “Matt Harper acolyte.”)

So, making lemonade of this lemon, I look forward to the possibility of replacing Matt (once he’s in the Assembly where he actually can do less damage) with a more progressive councilperson, someone more sensitive to the environment and less stridently hostile to labor, while still fiscally responsible – someone in the mold of current councilmembers Joe Shaw and Connie Boardman.  That could be Jill Hardy, Blair Farley, or someone yet to emerge.

But wait… what’s this?

Now we’re hearing HB Mayor Joe Carchio might jump in as well.  Hm … the sort of moderate Republican that the open primary system was created to encourage.  MAYBE I could support him, depending on various factors, as much as I’ve ridiculed him over the years.  Stay tuned…


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.