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Major divide between Vietnamese American supporters of San Jose mayoral candidates as older generation backed Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese while younger generation of VietAms supported San Jose Vice Mayor and Councilwoman Madison Nguyen. Outside Evergreen Valley College after April 13 Vietnamese American community mayoral debate, Nguyen and Cortese supporters threatened to clash, as both sides hoisted lawn signs by their sharp prongs in the air for their respective candidates. Pro-Cortese partisans denounced Nguyen as a liar, casting venomous stares or chants against mostly stoic Nguyen supporters outside the community college theater. A few pro-Cortese supporters shouted and finger pointed at Nguyen backers and bystanders, many of whom refused to be baited…

San Jose mayoral candidate and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen

San Jose mayoral candidate and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen

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Supervisor Dave Cortese for San Jose Mayor supporter denounces rival candidate Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen

TRUST, TRUST, TRUST: Out of the five San Jose mayoral candidates, Cortese, Nguyen and Councilman Sam Liccardo made serious pitches for support from the VietAm community at the forum hosted by dozen organizations including Vietnamese American Roundtable, APAPA, Viet Voters, Vietnamese American Professional Women of Silicon Valley, Vietnamese American Communities & Coalitions of Northern California. Cortese summed up a 21 year relationship with the community in three words – “working together again” while detailing for audience his school board curriculum work on Vietnamese language and textbooks, funding countywide health assessment of Vietnamese Americans, his leadership on the controversial Story Road renaming of a enclave as Little Saigon while supporting no San Jose sister city relationship with Vietnam….

San Jose mayoral campaign volunteers for Madison Nguyen and Dave Cortese hoist lawn signs after Vietnamese American community debate.

San Jose mayoral campaign volunteers for Madison Nguyen and Dave Cortese hoist lawn signs after Vietnamese American community debate.

ASKING TO FORGIVE: Nguyen and Liccardo went as far as apologizing for misunderstanding community wishes on “Little Saigon.” Nguyen and Liccardo’s concession goes to importance of San Jose’s more than 45,000 Vietnamese American votes (11% of electorate) as they heal old wounds for the June primary in the short-run and the November runoff in the long-run…Nguyen, who originally proposed the compromise “Saigon Business District,” refused to “claim credit” for the Little Saigon naming that led to the 2008 city council rescinding the 2007 naming of her compromise.  In 2009, Nguyen defeated a recall election over her compromise. “I was young, inexperienced” but learned from “these mistakes…I apologize for headaches and heartaches due to my naiveté and inexperience,” she said. At the end of the day, “it is the outcome that matters”….Nguyen would make San Jose a “City of Opportunity” as she touted her work on the first Vietnamese cultural garden in the US, support higher pay for bilingual police officers, creating youth jobs and cracking down on illicit activity at Vietnamese cafes…

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San Jose mayoral candidate and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese.

MOBILIZING YOUR SUPERVISOR: Weeks after AT&T unleashed its new tagline for its products last month, “Mobilizing Your World,” 17th District (east side San Francisco) Assembly candidate David Chiu accused the telecommunications giant of mobilizing rival David Campos to vote for 726 utility boxes – each about four feet high – to expand Internet services. It got ugly at San Francisco Beautiful’s meeting on April 29 as Chiu distributed campaign literature accusing Campos of being a “[2011] swing vote to allow AT&T to place…utility boxes on San Francisco’s sidewalks. He has taken $5,000 from AT&T and its employees since 2008.” While Chiu voted against AT&T, Campos’ vote helped company prevail in a 6-5 vote and triggering more than 2,000 appeals. Campos in an online July 20, 2011 Chronicle article claimed “AT&T has done everything it could to minimize the impact, and I take them at their word that they’re committed to listening to the concerns of the community” after rebuffing SFB and neighborhood groups to appeal AT&T’s permit…The Chiu slam against Campos comes as the board this month considers changes to its 2011 vote by tightening up outreach, location and aesthetic requirements for the boxes. Chiu and District 8 (Castro/Upper Market) Supervisor Scott Wiener – a former deputy city attorney – however can’t ban them under state law, which requires the city to act within 60 days on each utility cabinet…

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Assembly candidate David Chiu supports regulating installation and permitting of AT&T utility boxes

Assembly candidate David Campos slammed for AT&T utility box stance and contributions.

Assembly candidate David Campos slammed for AT&T utility box stance and contributions.

PERSONAL TRIP: San Jose mayoral contender Dave Cortese thumping on the “trust” theme had Madison Nguyen carefully considering and clarifying her debate statements. A few in the audience buzzed over Nguyen’s words forcing her to clarify that she did not make any official trips to Vietnam as Vice Mayor or Councilmember. Like all of her fellow candidates, she would not support an official relationship with Vietnam and spend resources or meet with Vietnam dignitaries. “I’ve been taught every single day why we had to leave Vietnam,” said Nguyen, early in the debate. “My parents would disown me if I actually wanted to talk about going to Vietnam and doing anything in Vietnam.” In her concluding statement at the end after a mix of applause and hisses, the former refugee clarified taking a “personal trip…as a dutiful daughter in law” to visit her father-in-law dying from a stroke in Vietnam…

TRUST BUT VERIFY: In his closing statement before Cortese’s “trust” argument, Liccardo recounted that he issued a written pledge to San Jose Vietnamese Americans. “You need a pledge that you will recognize, I’ll recognize. And we’ll keep each other accountable…” On the Little Saigon naming, he admitted his “mistake voting on the wrong side” and drew applause as he confessed “not doing my job of listening better.” 


San Jose mayoral candidate and Councilman Sam Liccardo

San Jose mayoral candidate and Councilman Sam Liccardo.

MOVE HWANG MOVE: Before any Run Hwang Run campaign starts up in San Francisco’s Chinatown/North Beach District 3 (See “Potstickers” on 5/1/14 at to succeed Supervisor David Chiu, power couple Victor Hwang and partner Ivy Lee (aide to Little Saigon/SOMA District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim) will have to move themselves and their kids from their Inner Sunset home in District 7 (West of Twin Peaks/Lake Merced). It might not be easy especially if the family owns the home in District 7…Although, civil rights attorney Hwang could stay put and succeed Norman Yee if the most senior (age wise) supervisor decides not to run for another term in 2016, or resigns early. Yee will be 67 when re-election time comes in 2016…

SAN JOSE’S TOP TWO: The San Jose Mayor’s race is a battle to win the top two spots on June 3 to qualify for a November runoff. Last February and March, polls with one backed by labor (See “Potstickers” on 3/13/14 at and the other commissioned by candidate Liccardo served as trial heats demonstrating Cortese, Nguyen and Liccardo could finish in the top two. Meanwhile SJ Councilmembers Pierluigi Oliverio and Rose Herrera were second tier candidates mired in single digits, waiting to break thru…Nguyen, if elected, would become the first Vietnamese American mayor of a major US city and San Jose’s second Asian Pacific American (APA) mayor after Norman Mineta served as mayor from 1971 to 1975 …The tense April Vietnamese community debate – drawing cheers and jeers – confirmed partially what a February pro-labor poll said. Nguyen’s was winning her share of APA votes but barely over Cortese. According to PDI, Vietnamese Americans make up 46 percent of San Jose’s APA voters. Although dated, the mid-February labor poll – commissioned by San Jose firefighters, police, government attorneys and South Bay Labor Council – surveyed likely June 2014 APA voters (they makeup one-fifth of San Jose voters). Nguyen came in with 28%, Cortese 22%, Liccardo 6%, Oliverio 3%, Herrera 2% and tech/finance executive Pat Waite 5% who decided not to run for mayor…

RACIAL ENTRAPMENT?: Revealed last Monday, 49er legend Joe Montana approached by FBI in Yee-Jackson-Chow case. That throws a wrench in criminal defense narrative by Tony Serra (defending Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow) that the FBI was racially profiling Asian and African Americans in their indictments of State Senator Leland Yee, former School Board member Keith Jackson, reformed gangster Chow and 26 associates. Fitting Serra’s postulate, the April 28 Chronicle story featured undercover agent broaching deals with San Francisco and Oakland’s African American City Hall political leadership, including London Breed of SF District 5 (Japantown/Haight), Malia Cohen of SF District 10 (Bayview), Oakland City Council/Vice Mayor Larry Reid of District 7 (Elmhurst/East Oakland) and Lynette Gibson McElhaney of District 3 (West Oakland)…Knocking fed conspiracy theory in snaring people of color, did anyone note FBI spokesperson Peter Lee is APA?

MISS ME?: Email Samson Wong at and  follow him at Twitter @SFPotstickers…


About the Author

Veteran columnist has appeared in up to 450,000 households weekly in the SF Independent, Examiner (2000-04) and AsianWeek since 1996. As Editor-in-Chief (2003-07), AsianWeek and Samson received wide recognition from the California Legislature, New American Media, League of Women Voters, GLAAD, Organization of Chinese Americans, SPUR and APA civic groups. Thru the SF Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, SF Elections Task Force and Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Wong helped boost APA influence from 25,000 in the 1980s to over 50,000 voters by the early 1990s.