Tran of course is running for congress against Quang Pham, an ex-Marine pilot, author and businessman, in the Republican primary next year. And if successful, he will have a chance to face the incumbent Loretta Sanchez (D).
The 47th Congressional District, according to an Associated Press news release, has 96,000 registered Democrats, 70,000 registered Republicans and 42,000 registered Independents. These numbers are attained from the Orange County Registrar of Voters. The Vietnamese American voters make up about 10% of the total registered voters. Historically, they always have high turn out and some insiders (mostly political consultants) have estimated that they will represent about 15% - 20% of the total votes, depending on how low the overall turnout will be.
Van Tran's assembly district overlaps the congressional district about 20%. In comparison, Janet Nguyen's county district overlaps 40%.
To combat the recent unfavorable press, Tran has instructed his hired guns to spread the words in op-ed pieces in the Vietnamese-American community as well as word of the mouth that Loretta Sanchez is really afraid of Tran for she cannot raise money. Hence she will opt out to run for governor instead.
Also, in response to the community's concern in regards to budget cut, Tran had a townhall meeting recently and informed the community that 80% of the budget cut will be compensated by federal grants and stimulus packages. This of course is really misrepresenting the facts by Tran to assure one his staunchest voting bloc - the old anti-communist voters who are mostly recipients of federal and state social services.
Tran's major concern right now is the primary of course. Even though he is talking tough and tries his best to ignore Quang Pham at the moment, he understands that the Vietnamese-Americans in OC are looking for a fresh face and are tired of the "Trannie" and the "Gang of Seven". Tran is so sensitive to the label "Gang of Seven" now that when in public events, they made a point of not hanging around together. Before the loss to Janet Nguyen in 2008, they were sticking together like glue to show off their unity and power.
Pham is a relative newcomer to politics. He has the name recognition within the Vietnamese-American community and somewhat of a celebrity with his autobiography of a soldier and soldier's son fighting for the idea of freedom and democracy.
So far the race has not been heating up yet. In term of fund raising, Tran managed to raise $250,000 for his race against Pham and Sanchez. Out of the $250,000, about $175,000 can be used for the primary, the rest is earmarked for the run-off. About $26,000 of the donation came from Vietnamese-American owners of companies that have close tie with the communist government in Vietnam. Pham declared his candidacy later in the filing cycle so his filing statement will not be available until Q3.
A number of factors in play in the Republican primary
1. Clearly the Vietnamese-Americans will play a major role in deciding whether it is Pham or Tran to go against Sanchez - An outsider vs. a political insider. Up until now, the conventional wisdom is that both will split the vote for the community is polarized strongly by Van and his "Gang of Seven". The downfall of Andy Quach is probably viewed indifferently by the mainstream voters. However, within the Vietnamese-American community, Andy Quach and Van Tran represents a political machine entity and its power. Whether this will hurt Van or not, only time can tell
2. The mainstream, how are they going to view Tran as a political establishment with records? Whether these records are in his favor or not, it will depend on his opponent to convince the voters. In addition, his wife conviction of insurance fraud in 2005 (a year after he won the election), will that be a factor? Tran was her attorney as a sitting assemblyman. She got off with a slap on a wrist - probation and a revoked insurance license.
3. Pham is inexperience in political campaign. Tran is well known to use dirty tactics in his political machine to destroy his opponents or perceived opponents, case in point - Janet Nguyen in 2007 and 2008. Even though Pham has been successful in business and has the name recognition in the Vietnamese-American community, he is an unknown outside his circle of business and military sphere.
4. Can Pham build a team to go against Tran's political machine and the "Gang of Seven"? Even though the "Gang of Seven" is less powerful than before with political defeats in 2008 and the now Andy Quach DUI.
All these questions will be answered soon enough as the politics will heat up in the fall (hopefully).