SAN JOSE, Calif.—Most of their issues are common to any city council race in America fixing potholes, stopping gang violence, improving schools. But this election is between two young Vietnamese-American women, and they’re waging much of their campaigns in a language most of their constituents don’t understand.
Tuesday’s runoff election to decide between two candidates named Nguyen marks the political awakening of San Jose’s Vietnamese community a fast-growing immigrant group that began arriving three decades ago as political refugees from war-ravaged Vietnam.
“It’s a big milestone,” said resident Paul Le, 38. “After 30 years, we will finally have someone who wants to represent our interests. It shows that we have the will and political strength to voice our concerns.”
School board member Madison Nguyen, 30, and attorney Linda Nguyen, 28, both Democrats, are not related but share the most common Vietnamese surname.
Their runoff next Tuesday is only the latest sign of Vietnamese-Americans’ growing political power. In November, Van Tran, a Republican former city councilman in Southern California’s Garden Grove, became the nation’s first Vietnamese-American elected to a state Legislature.
“This is a new force in local, state and national politics,” said Terry Christensen, a political science professor at San Jose State University.