Feeling a little nervous-excitement-jittery on this election eve? Need a good read to pass the interminable hours before the sun rises tomorrow? Well, have I got a story to tell you!
It begins 46 years ago when a baby boy was was born in Saigon, Vietnam. Little did his parents know that a few short years later, they would be caught up in the trauma of a brutal war that would forever change their homeland. When their young son was just 10 years old, the Tran family experienced the adventure of their lives when the United States Army evacuated them from war-ravaged Saigon – one week before it fell to the Communists.
U.S. military evacuates Vietnamese before the fall of Saigon, Vietnam. (1975)
That boy’s name is Van Thai Tran.
Trần Thái Văn in Vietnamese.
Refugee Van Tran and his family were welcomed to America and made a home for themselves in Michigan. Life was hard and the adjustments were many, but the Tran family rejoiced because they were in a land of freedom – The United States of America. When they arrived stateside, Tran could speak only two words of English: “Okay” and “Salem,” a brand of cigarettes used by American GIs stationed in his homeland. A few years later, when Tran was a teenager, they moved to Orange County, CA, where many Vietnamese refugees were welcomed and a community known as Little Saigon was formed.
Life wasn’t easy for the Tran family, but Tran worked hard to master English and get an education. His diligent efforts resulted in a Bachelors Degree in Political Science at the University of California, Irvine, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He was a managing partner in his own law firm. Tran became very active in his community – serving on a planning commission, serving as Vice-Mayor of Garden Grove – earning the highest number of votes in the history in the city’s council election and became only the second Vietnamese American man to be elected to office in the United States. He was Vice Chairman of the Orange County based ‘El Capitan’ District of the Boy Scouts of America and became a member of the prestigious American Council of Young Political Leaders.
Van Thai Tran
While attending college, Tran became politically active in the Republican party and worked as an intern for then State Senator (now Congressman) Republican Ed Royce and Congressman Robert Dornan (known as B-1 Bob, for his outspoken support of strengthening national defense in supporting the B1 bomber). Congressman Dornan was defeated by Democrat Loretta Sanchez in a controversial election in 1992 by only a few hundred votes. Sanchez actively courted illegal aliens and even changed her name – taking her mother’s name of Sanchez to influence voters in the highly Hispanic district. Later, a Congressional investigation found evidence that 624 votes were indeed cast by illegal aliens.
In August 2002, Sanchez caused quite a flap when she booked a fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion. Keeping up with her constituent outreach, on August 31st of this year, Rep. Sanchez had lunch – at the Playboy Mansion. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner tweeted that day: “Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez is having lunch at the Mansion,” the tweet said. “I’m a long time supporter.”
Now, Republican Van Thai Tran is in a neck-and-neck political battle with Democrat incumbent Loretta Sanchez for the 47th congressional district in CA – the woman who many say stole the race from his mentor, Bob Dornan.
Unusual factors are at play in California’s 47th district. It’s a socially conservative district that strongly backed Prop 8—the state’s anti-same sex marriage Constitutional amendment—on the exact day it voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by a whopping 22 points. Whites are a minority in the district, comprising roughly 35 percent of the electorate; 50 percent of CA-47’s voters are Hispanic, and the remaining 15 percent are Vietnamese.
Sanchez recently came under fire for injecting ‘race’ into the contest against Tran. From an interview on Univision, the Spanish-language tv channel she said: “The Vietnamese and the Republicans are, with an intensity, trying to take this seat from which we have done so much for our community — to take this seat and give it to this Van Tran, who is very anti-immigrant and very anti-Hispanic.”
Maybe this is why Congresswoman Sanchez played the race card:
It’s a battle! The Big Guns are involved. Bill Clinton, who supported Sanchez 14 years ago, has stepped in again to support to Sanchez and smooth her “Vietnamese’ issue. Romney endorsed Van Tran as part of his 10 for ’10 initiative. Tran has caught the attention of conservative radio and was interviewed by Mark Levin last week and he gave Tran a glowing endorsement.
While Romney was busy helping conservatives in the northeast, Rudy Giuliani stepped in to help Van Tran (and Carly Fiorina) on Oct 15, 2010 (Republican kinship leading to midterms has been good to see.):
Tran hasn’t had the resources that Sanchez has and acknowledges the path to victory has been steep. But, the fact that the race is close is striking.
Dana Perino reports on the diversity of midterm GOP candidates – Van Tran is featured:
Tran has focused on creating jobs and the greatness of America: “My candidacy is an affirmation of how great this country is. I came here as a little boy with literally the clothes on my back, and without any knowledge of the language, and now I’m the first Vietnamese-American member of the legislature of the largest state in the union, and a candidate for the United States Congress. Where else on this earth is that possible?”
Let’s keep the American Dream alive tomorrow. Electing Van Tran will help.
► Jayde Wyatt