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Are Unions Using Phat Bui as a Decoy for Michele Martinez?

Posted by Chris Nguyen on March 9, 2016

Andrew Do, Michele Martinez, Steve Rocco, and Phat Bui

Supervisor Andrew Do (R-Westminster), Councilwoman Michele Martinez (D-Santa Ana), Steve Rocco (NPP-Santa Ana), and Councilman Phat Bui (R-Garden Grove)

Since I broke the story Friday of Garden Grove Councilman Phat Bui (R) pulling papers for First District Supervisor, I’ve had many people ask why Bui is joining convicted ketchup thief Steve Rocco (NPP) and Santa Ana Councilwoman Michele Martinez (D) in challenging the re-election bid of Supervisor Andrew Do (R).

I have heard lots of different rumors as to why Bui is running, considering he is a Councilman just 15 months into his first term. The most logical conclusion is that labor unions have either put Bui up to this or have tricked Bui into running in order to split the Vietnamese-American vote, the Republican vote, and the Garden Grove vote to force a run-off election between Do and Martinez.

Democrats have been plagued by low voter turnout throughout the presidential primaries and caucuses between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders while Republican voter turnout has been at record levels in nearly every state.

Democrats and labor unions hope forcing Do into a run-off against Martinez will utilize the high presidential general election turnout of Democrats and Latinos to allow Martinez to pull off an upset.  While it is unlikely Martinez would win, this scenario is still the best hope she has of victory.

Bui’s City Council election web site showed only eight endorsements: Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, a labor union, two non-Orange County elected officials, and four private citizens.  With Rackauckas endorsing Do, that only leaves labor in Bui’s corner.

Labor knows they need Martinez in the run-off, and Bui’s entry helps that effort.

It is still possible for Do to break 50% and avert a run-off.  Do likely would have been able to easily do so in a Do-Martinez-Rocco field.  With Bui in the race, Martinez’s supporters can hope Bui can siphon off enough votes to keep Do under 50%.

Bui was probably either promised lots of support that won’t materialize (in which case he was tricked into running) or else told to be a spoiler with the promise of support for something else in the future.

Things tend to go poorly for Vietnamese American elected officials who try to unseat other Vietnamese American elected officials.  For example, eight years ago, Garden Grove Councilwoman Dina Nguyen challenged Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s re-election to this same seat.  Janet Nguyen is now a Senator while Dina Nguyen is now on a water board.

Shunned by the Republican Party and abandoned by labor is not a great spot for any Republican elected official.  This candidacy for Supervisor could lead to being in a no-man’s land, which is not a great place for a newly-elected Councilman.

(Cue my usual Nguyen disclaimer: I am not related to the State Senator Janet Nguyen or Water Board Director Dina Nguyen.  The last name Nguyen is held by 36% of Vietnamese people.)

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