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  • Writer's pictureBill Wong

Analysis: Kim Bernice Nguyen Poised to Help Democrats Shatter the Steel Curtain in OC

Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen's Mexican-Vietnamese heritage tailor-made to flip this Latino-Asian purple district that could help deliver control of the United States Congress to the Democratic Party


Source: Kim Bernice Nguyen for Congress


In one of the most underrated opportunities for national Democrats to flip a Republican congressional seat, Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen is racking up the major local and national endorsements necessary to make it to the runoff against MAGA Republican Congresswoman Michelle Steel in November of 2024.


Most recently, Nguyen announced the endorsement of legendary Orange County US Rep. Lou Correa who has built a career of defeating competitive Republicans. Correa joins US Rep. Linda Sanchez and US Rep. Katie Porter who announced their support for Nguyen previously. Porter, now a candidate for US Senate, stated: "Kim Bernice Nguyen is a true homegrown leader who has always stood up for her community. She'll be a voice for change in Washington, fighting for a woman's right to choose and delivering for working families. I'm proud to endorse Kim Bernice Nguyen for Congress. She's the right choice for CA-45 and I hope you join me in supporting her campaign!"


Nguyen also has the support of local Democratic state legislators who have contributed heavily to the Democratic revolution in Orange County, including: CA Senator Tom Umberg, CA Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, CA Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris, CA Assemblymember Avalino Valencia, and former CA Assemblymember Tom Daly. Other major endorsements include the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' BOLD PAC and the Congressional Asian Pacific America Caucus' ASPIRE PAC.


Major labor unions have weighed in as well, including: Los Angeles/Orange County Building & Construction Trades Council, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Joint Council 42, International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council 36, Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), and the United Association of Refrigeration Fitters, Steamfitters, and Welders Local 250.


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Joe Biden won this seat by 6 points in 2020 and the demographics and voter registration in this district give Democrats an edge in presidential election years. Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Latino voters are a majority of the district at 51.6% -- with Vietnamese voters making up the largest block of AAPI voters at 58.4%. Latinos voters make up over 20% of the district.


CA-45 is anchored around Orange County’s Little Saigon, home to the largest population of Vietnamese in the world outside of Vietnam, and includes many neighborhoods that feature Los Angeles and Orange County’s growing Asian-American population.


If elected, Kim would be the first person of Vietnamese descent ever elected to congress from California, and only the third in US history. She would also be the first Asian-Latina woman in Congress and one of a growing group of millennials seeking to make change on our most crucial issues.


Source: Kim Bernice Nguyen for Congress


As the only Democratic candidate in the race currently serving in elected office, she comes with an existing base of voters that political professionals recognize as a huge advantage in scaling up to a seat in Congress. Incumbency provides higher name identification, deeper political connections, better ballot title, and more meaningful salience to the voters than other unknown candidates.


All of the current candidates, including Nguyen, are virtually tied in fundraising at the low six figures level. Fundraising for all state and federal candidates has been challenging this year and has lagged ostensibly due to donor fatigue. Given the level playing field in fundraising, the primary election advantage goes to Nguyen who has a preexisting base of voters and more influential endorsements.


Nguyen, as a healthcare specialist, also has the most credible and tangible record on the issue of abortion and choice - possibly the most pivotal issue for voters in the nation at this moment. The issue of choice has helped Democrats hand Republicans stunning defeats in state after state, whether they came in the form of defeated ballot propositions or elections that changed control of state supreme courts.


Steel is lackluster candidate and an unapologetic supporter of Trump and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy who ran what was the most racist and specifically anti-Chinese campaign in modern American political history in 2022. Her attacks on the Democratic candidate, Lt. Commander Jay Chen, featured inflammatory, outrageous, and outlandish characterizations of Chen and Chinese. While Chen was able to raise a significant war chest for the race, the odds were against him in the low Democratic voter turnout midterm election. Additionally, Chinese American voters make up only a small portion (13,896) of the district’s large AAPI population dominated by Vietnamese voters. Ultimately Steel beat Chen 52.4% to 47.6%.


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