Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Van Tran and His Vietnamese Dream

A week after State Assemblyman Van Tran announced his intention to run against incumbent Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez in 2010, things have been very quiet on the Vietnamese many e-mail groups, Web news outlets as well as blogs. Apparently, the excitement of being the first in congress is taken away by Congressman Joseph Cao’s successful run in New Orleans last year.

In his press conference with the Vietnamese community, Van reiterated 5 times “….As Vietnamese, we should take care of our own since nobody will…” It was no doubt his way of pleading to the community to forget and forgive his divisive tactics within the community in the last two years trying to bring down his political enemy – County Supervisor Janet Nguyen.

Sensing Tran’s vulnerability, Quang X. Pham, an author, a successful businessman and well respected in community, also announced his intention of challenging Loretta Sanchez. It is not a surprise move since Pham has expressed his interest in running for congress sooner or later.

So what is in play at the moment and the opportunities at hand for Tran.

Currently, the question every political pundit is asking - Would Tran back out at the last minute like last time? Tran is a calculated politician and does not like to commit to a race unless he knows he has a good chance of winning.

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.

According to OC Progressive, there are about 20,000 Vietnamese-Americans voted in Nov 2008 election in the 47th District. In comparison, there were about 50,000 Hispanics voted. The percentage is roughly 15% vs. 40% of the total votes in Nov. 2008 election. If the actual voting numbers as quoted by the OC Progressive blog are true to be directly from PDI (A well known voting database company), Tran will need to do very well within his Vietnamese community.

Now, the bigger issue Tran is facing is something called goodwill and political capital. Almost half of 47th District falls within County Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s District 1. By publicly attacking Nguyen and calling her falsely as a “Viet Gian” (A word implying a traitor working for the communist government) and communist sympathizer, Tran has distanced himself with many Nguyen’s supporters. It was a bitter 2008 election where Tran engineered Dina Nguyen and his cohorts to an at all cost war to ensure Janet Nguyen would not be re-elected. This was not the political leadership and unity that the Vietnamese community expected of Tran.

The lowest point of course was when the Vietnamese households receiving Tran’s personal letter written on state assembly letterhead attacking Nguyen

With all the money that the Republican leadership will be pouring into this race, Tran needs to prove himself again that he is a worthy Vietnamese candidate within his community. He has not done anything to benefit the community except for some Freedom flag waving ceremonies and meaningless jingoism on freedom and democracy for Vietnam. Nevertheless, he has done a job in building up his image as a political Godfather of the Vietnamese community. With his infamous “Trannie”, he has managed to cause a great concern within his own community as a power hungry kingmaker/politician. Political monopoly is something that the community has always leery. After all, it was the abusive political monopoly of the communist that the community fled for their life.

And Tran and his Trannie latest successful attempt in blocking Janet Nguyen and her funding of a pedestrian bridge to help ease the traffic on Bolsa demonstrates to the community that Tran would go to any extent for his political vendetta against his enemies instead of putting the interest of the community first.

Tran as a Vietnamese candidate vs. Sanchez as a Hispanic incumbent is an intriguing race and will make great news and blogs. Tran has criticized Sanchez as a Latino politician with a narrow focus on Latino issues and concerns. Meanwhile, he portrays himself as a candidate of mainstream and can reach across to the Whites and Hispanics. In reality, the party still views him as a Vietnamese candidate and expects him to deliver the Vietnamese votes to them. The irony is that within his Vietnamese community, whether he can regain their trust and respect is still debatable. Currently, Van Tran is damaged good and not well liked by the community. His wife's conviction of insurance fraud and lost her insurance license is itself a story of credibility in a community that is infamous for insurance fraud and Medicare fraud.

And this is where Quang X. Pham potentially can see an opening. He does not have the baggage like Tran. Matter of fact, the community is in need of a fresh voice and not the divisive politics as usual. How he positions himself in the race is still not known, and only time can tell.

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