SANTA ANA — On Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors took their swipe at the final maps for the Supervisorial districts that will be in place for the next ten years. With a last minute change to the Redistricting Committee’s recommendation submitted by Chairman Bill Campbell on Monday evening, the electoral influence of the Latino community in the First District was moved for barely to negligible. The winner, in this clearly partisan and gerrymandered change, was Supervisor Janet Nguyen.
On its surface the change, moving the portion of Fountain Valley north of Warner Avenue from the Second District to the First, doesn’t appear to have a great deal of significance other than unifying the Vietnamese community into a single district. The demographics for the voting age population in map 21, recommended by the Redistricting Committee, had 52.2% Latino and 26.2% Asian populations. In version 21C the numbers changed to 50.9% Latino and 26.8 Vietnamese. The significance is only revealed when you look at the registered voter demographics.
In version 21, the registered voter demographics break down to 36% Latino and 27% Asian. In version 21C those numbers change to 34.3% Latino and 29.4% Asian. The spread between Latino and Asian voters is reduced from approximately 9% to 5%. Virtually all of the voters making up the increase of Asian registered voters are Vietnamese. For an incumbent Supervisor, who is Vietnamese, this change is electoral gold. For a Latino community, already marginalized by being split between the First and Fourth Districts it’s devastating.
The reasons cited by the Supervisors for unifying the Vietnamese community of interest into the First district seem valid. However, to make such a change without also considering the unification of the Latino core of the County (Santa Ana and the central Anaheim flatlands) was a blatant political gerrmander to support an incumbent Supervisor.
Now I cannot blame Supervisor Nguyen for wanting to secure the influence of her political base through redistricting. I can however blame the remaining three members who supported the change for failing to live up to their responsibility to represent the interests of all communities of interest when crafting the new district boundaries.
But in addition to the Supervisors, the blame for the failure of the Latino community to have their core community of interest unified in the Supervisorial District boundaries lies with the leadership of the Latino community. More specifically, I should say the lack of leadership is to blame. The Vietnamese community came out in full force to support the unification of their core community of Little Saigon. An incessant flow of speakers addressed the Redistricting Committee and Board throughout the process with a single message, Keep Little Saigon Whole.
In addition to the fact that the Latino community could only muster a small number of people to speak on the proposals, they could not settle on any clear message other than Keep Santa Ana Whole. The problem with that message was that Santa Ana was never proposed to be split and any serious scenario considered by the Board. That short sighted and poorly articulated message gave the Supervisors little justification from public comment, to oppose the proposal to unify the Vietnamese community of interest in the First District.
It seems that once the Latino Community succeeded in protecting their influence in the Congressional district represented by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, they went home and sat out the process of drawing the Supervisorial districts. The key spokespeople for the community, LULAC members Art Montes and Zeke Hernandez, could not even figure out what proposed maps they had submitted, much less articulate anything other than Keep Santa Ana Whole.
Janet Nguyen gets credit for orchestrating a power grab in the First District by rallying the Vietnamese community of interest to participate in the process and advocate for their interest. The Latino community leaders, including the most senior elected Latino officials in the County Assemblyman Jose Solorio and Senator Lou Correa, failed to do the same for the Latino community.