Scrolling through the written public comments made to the Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) I came across a familiar name, Tyler Diep, Member of the Westminster City Council. Tyler, recently announced that he planned to run for what at the time seemed to be an open Assembly seat drawn specifically for the Vietnamese community. Since that particular visualization doesn’t really exist any more it seems his announcement may have been a bit premature. Given past behavior this is not that unusual for Mr. Diep. The current visualization for the Assembly district encompassing Little Saigon is virtually the same as the one currently represented by Assemblyman Allan Mansoor.
Now Tyler is well known for having a knack for inserting his foot firmly in his mouth, like when he tried unsuccessfully to get the Westminster Police to stop visiting his favorite watering hole. You can listen to the full audio on the YouTube Video: Tyler Diep Unplugged 2-7-09. But the fact that he would go on a, not so thinly veiled, written race-baiting rant against Latino’s defies logic.
In the first paragraph of his letter, Tyler makes it clear what has him so upset. “To split Little Saigon (and several cities) to re-draw Loretta Sanchez Democrat seat would be a gross partisan violation of the Voting Rights Act and the intention of voters.” It seems his former boss and mentor, former Assemblyman Van Tran last year’s failed challenger to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, won’t be getting a rematch if the newest Congressional District visualizations make the final cut. The latest visualizations pull most of Little Saigon into the same Congressional District, but splits it from the core Latino area of Santa Ana. Little Saigon is now included in a district that extends into Long Beach.
Diep is concerned that “the Voting Rights Act is not a proportional representation system as some who are attempting to redraw the previous incumbent district in Orange County think it is. The act is designed to protect minority communities who have had previous district lines weaken their already small political voice.” While the Voting Rights Act (VRA) protects minority communities from gerrymandereing that prevents them from having a political voice, it also does not permit districts to be gerrymandered to provide a disproportionate voice to a small minority community.
Diep continues; “When a population like the Latino community reaches the 37% population mark in our state and Latino representation reaches 2 members of the United States Senate, 30 Latino members in the House of Representatives, 8 Latino California State Senators and 15 California State Assemblymen, while there are no Vietnamese Senators or Assemblymen in the entire state or Congress – it is clear which community the Voting Rights Act is meant to protect at this point in our history. That is why ALL of Little Saigon should be included in any Congressional, State Senate or Assembly District lines that the Citizen Redistricting Commission draws – including West Santa Ana, Southwest Anaheim, North Fountain Valley and the entire communities of Garden Grove, Westminster and Midway City.” I’m curious, when did California get 2 Latino United States Senators?
Conveniently, Diep fails to recognize a major flaw in his argument. Vietnamese-Americans make up 1.6% of the California population. If we are looking at proportional representation that breaks down to 1.28 members of the Assembly, 0.64 members of the State Senate, and 0,848 members of the House of Representatives. Further, to get to these numbers, the entire Vietnamese population of the state would need to be consolidated into one contiguous district. No amount of gerrymandering is going to get you to that point. It would seem that Tyler Diep is advocating that the Latino community in Orange County be marginalized in order to create a district that would allow for a Vietnamese candidate to prevail. Sorry, that’s just not what this process is about.
“Presently, the Vietnamese community has divided representation in Sacramento and Washington. Their voices are unable to be heard based on the districts drawn in the past. The Latino community within Orange County is considerably represented, while the Vietnamese community is continuously split into separate districts and therefore, separate voices,” said Diep. “It is important in this time to recognize that the California Senate has 8 Latino Senators and the California Assembly has 15 assemblymen, while there are no Vietnamese Senators or Assemblymen in the entire state.”
In an effort to try to demonstrate his point Diep runs through a laundry list of current and former elected officials, some who are not Vietnamese, as Vietnamese elected officials. While he manages to include in his list the disgrace to the Vietnamese community otherwise known as, convicted felon Tan Nguyen, he leaves out both former Assemblyman Van Tran and current First District Supervisor Janet Nguyen. I’m only guessing here but I suspect he doesn’t want to point out that the Vietnamese community had representation in the State Assembly from 2004 through 2010, or that Supervisor Janet Nguyen won election and reelection in a Latino favored district in 2007 and 2008. Those little facts tend to erode the argument that the Vietnamese community is historically underrepresented. In fact, he also left out Phu Nguyen, who ran for the State Assembly seat vacated by Van Tran, from his list of candidates . Nguyen lost to Mansoor who was endorsed by Van Tran.
Diep closes by saying that; “Because of the districting lines that have been drawn in the past, the Vietnamese are not being represented completely.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The Vietnamese community is a strong, vibrant, and politically active community. Anyone seeking political office in the core area of this community ignores the Vietnamese voter at their peril. As a community their political strength is formidable. I find it surprising that Mr. Diep would sell his community short with such reckless abandon. It appears that Tyler Diep is more interested in the political future and interests of Republicans, rather than Vietnamese-Americans.
Read his complete letter here.