Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tam Nguyen, A Ponytail "Politivist" and A Catbird Seat

Next year, San Jose City Hall will definitely have a colorful cast of newly elected councilmembers both from ethnic background and profession.  We have a smiling corporate man from Apple, a young Hispanic policeman and then there is the Asian lawyer Tam Nguyen. 

Tam Nguyen  is a familiar face in the Vietnamese-American community with his guitar and musical performances.   He is a member of a well known musical group based in Orange County that performs throughout the US.  He is passionate about music and poetry.   He even composed his own theme song for his recent city council campaign.   And  he dons a ponytail and rides a Harley-Davidson.  How many candidates can have this much fun running?

But he is an analytical person by training.   He started out as a computer engineer for Tandem Computer, received his MBA and then decided to get a law degree because there were only 4 Vietnamese-American lawyers for the whole community of 60,000 or so people.   For almost 20 years, his law practice is built around community activism and helping the voiceless.  Along the way, he co-founded a newspaper and is a co-owner of a restaurant.  But it is his love for music and for the arts that the community sees him as a person.    And as he grows older, his pony tail is noticeable getting longer.   Whether this is a statement of being a confident self-made man who is quite content with his life and work, only he can tell. 

He is not the first ponytail lawyer to appear in  court to defend his clients but he is definitely the only lawyer right now with a ponytail appearing in court as a city councilmember-elect.   A year and a half ago, the idea of running for city council in D7 never crossed his mind.  He showed no interest at all.  But when he was convinced by community leaders that it was for the best of the community (both Vietnamese-American and at large) and he can make an impact, he was ready to go.  



He raised money anywhere he could find a friend.  And he has a lot of them.  People in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Orange County hosted many fund raisers for him. He organized a 40-people team to canvas the precincts for him.  His theme as a "politivist" resonated with the voters from middle class to low income.   He introduced himself as " my name is Tam which means heart"  to voters that he met. 

In 2015, how he will use his swing vote to move San Jose forward and help his constituents, only time can tell.  But he is smart a "politivist", a word that he coined to show his commitment through city government to the common man's cause.  One can sense that he will do the right thing with his big heart.  

Both current mayor and mayor-elect know this and they were already courting him over a private lunch less than a week after the election.   He is a maverick leader  as they come and he wears his heart on his sleeve. 

As a self-made man, he has many stories that he loves to share  but his favorite is from the story told by Bishop Desmond Tutu:

"...An anthropologist studying the habits and customs of an African tribe found himself surrounded by children most days. So he decided to play a little game with them.  He put candies in a decorated basket at the foot of a tree. Then he called the children and suggested they play the game. When the anthropologist said “now”, the children had to run to the tree and the first one to get there could have all the candy to him/herself.  So the children all lined up waiting for the signal. When the anthropologist said “now”, all of the children took each other by the hand ran together towards the tree. 

They all arrived at the same time divided up the candy, sat down and began to happily munch away.   The anthropologist went over to them and asked why they had all run together when any one of them could have had the candy all to themselves. The children responded: “Ubuntu. How could any one of us be happy if all the others were sad?”  

Ubuntu is a philosophy of African tribes that can be summed up as “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Madison Nguyen Determines to Run for CA Assembly D27

As the dust just settled in this cycle of election, San Jose City Councilmember Madison Nguyen already is planning ahead for 2016.  She is being termed out this year after 8 controversial years at city hall.   She already tells anyone who is listening that she intends to file for statement of intent to run for the 27th California Assembly District very soon.   This is the office that is currently held by  her one time friend and now arch nemesis,  Assemblymember  Nora Campos.

She will be joining a number of potential candidates.  Conventional wisdom predicts  that San Jose City Councilmember Ash Kalra and Darcy Green are the other two contenders.  Darcy Green is a former aide to Manny Diaz and Joe Coto.  She is currently a Relations Manager for Kaiser Permanente.   A potential wild card is Xavier Campos.   A former city councilmember who recently lost his race as an incumbent due to allegations of unethical conduct,  Campos might not be running.   But as a younger brother of Nora Campos, he has instant name recognition for a district of 465,000 people.  The district composes of 33% Asian, 46% Latino and 16% White.   It has 180,000 registered voters.

Of the four people planning to run, Darcy Green is the most intrigue and will bring a fresh face to politics.   Whether she can run an effective campaign or not is unknown.  
 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dave Cortese Concedes and Maya Esparza Waits

With Dave Cortese conceded earlier this evening, the provisional ballot counting is now becoming less of a story.  The only intrigue is whether Tam Nguyen will have enough votes to keep the surging Maya Esparza from winning the San Jose D7 city council seat.  We will find out by the end of the week.  It is not impossible to overcome  the 258 vote difference (as of this evening) but there might not be enough votes left to save her.   Maya's campaign staff was a no show at this morning at the ROV while Tam's campaign manager and 4 of his supporters stopped by to check on the process.



 

Only 14,000 Provisional Ballots Left in Santa Clara County

Now that all the ballots are tallied except for the provisional ballots, Santa Clara County ROV's office  suddenly became quite crowded this morning with at least 20 people from Sam Liccardo's campaign and a half a dozen from Dave Cortese's campaign.   They were all there ready for the counting of the provisional ballots which should finish by the end of the week.

The two still contested races are the San Jose mayoral race and San Jose D7.   Tam Nguyen is ahead of Maya Esparza by 267 votes while Sam Liccardo has a 3,668 votes lead on Dave Cortese.   If the lead is less than 1% for either candidate, there is a possibility of a recount.  The provisional ballots for D7 will not be tallied until Wednesday.


SAM LICCARDO      87,950    51.06%
DAVE CORTESE      84,282    48.94%


TAM NGUYEN 6,581    51.04%
MAYA ESPARZA       6,31348.96%

Unofficial Election Results

 San Jose City Council, D7   Precincts Reporting:  100% Tam Nguyen                        31.85%       2,275  Maya Esparza             ...