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  • Writer's pictureBill Wong

Out of District Candidate Clobbered by Councilwoman Kim Nguyen-Penaloza in Lopsided Vote

Photo courtesy of Nguyen-Penaloza for Congress

In a show of impressive campaign organizing and local popularity, Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen-Penaloza cleaned the clock of personal injury attorney Derek Tran in this weekend’s state Democratic Party pre-endorsement vote for the 45th Congressional District. Nguyen-Penaloza dominated the pre-endorsement ballot with a near-unanimous 93% of the voting delegates.

Nguyen-Penaloza issued the following statement following the decisive victory:

“I’m honored by the overwhelming trust California Democratic Party delegates have placed in me for this seat and I’m proud to be the presumptive Democratic Party endorsed candidate for CA-45. With community, labor, and Democratic Party support, ours is a coalition that’s built to win. I look forward to working with our allies and national Democrats to flip this seat and defeat MAGA Michelle Steel in 2024!” At their pre-endorsement conferences held this weekend, the California Democratic Party placed a 70% threshold for candidates to be moved to consent at their endorsing convention in November. Despite the high bar, Councilwoman Nguyen-Penaloza's commanding victory is nearly unprecedented and it is rare for a candidate to receive a near-unanimous vote in a crowded primary.

Her primary opponent, Derek Tran received 1 vote.

Tran announced his candidacy after the Q3 campaign finance filing deadline boasting fundraising numbers that cannot be confirmed. Tran, who currently lives in the 40th Congressional District, seems to be betting on his background as a military veteran to win crossover votes in this pivotal district.

However, military service and a multi-million war chest failed to deliver a win in this district for U.S. Naval Lt. Commander Jay Chen in 2020. Out of touch DC insiders fetishizing Tran’s military profile are at risk of making the same mistake they did in 2020 when they lost this swing district that Biden won by 6 points to MAGA Republican Michelle Steel.

Garry South, a veteran Democratic strategist who has won major statewide campaigns in California remarked, “Once again, we Democrats' 'come one, come all' philosophy in primary elections could diminish our chances in a critical district we need to flip in '24. Anyone who gets in this late, with less than five months before the primary and starting from scratch -- and who doesn't even live in the district -- is more of a dilettante than a serious candidate." The daughter of a Vietnamese refugee and a Mexican immigrant, Kim Nguyen-Penaloza was the first in her family to graduate high school and college. At just 25, she mobilized Latino voters to win a historic election as the youngest person and first Latina ever elected to the Garden Grove City Council.

A leader on women’s issues, Councilwoman Nguyen-Penaloza has stood up to harassment and sought equality and justice throughout Southern California and has fought to ensure that immigrants, like her parents, have the dignity and opportunity to succeed in our communities.

A homegrown leader, Councilwoman Nguyen-Penaloza attended Clinton-Mendenhall Elementary, Doig, Intermediate, and Santiago High School. As a healthcare expert, she will bring a much-needed public health background to Congress, having formerly worked for CalOptima and now as a Program Manager for a large health plan. CA-45 is one of the top pick-up opportunities for Democrats in 2024 with a Democratic registration advantage of 5.6%. Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Latino voters are a majority of the district at 51.6%.

If elected, Kim Nguyen-Penaloza would be the first person of Vietnamese descent ever elected to Congress in California and only the third in US history.

Councilwoman Nguyen-Penaloza has the support of labor powerhouse SEIU, local elected officials, and is the only candidate for Congress in the nation endorsed by both BOLD PAC and ASPIRE PAC, the political arms of both the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Asian-American, Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Members of Congress.

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