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DECISION 2000 / ORANGE COUNTY | O.C. CITY CONTESTS

Tran Takes Lead in Garden Grove

A council seat would be the first for a Vietnamese American in the city. Ward, Mears and Krom have early edge in Irvine.

November 08, 2000|TINA BORGATTA and MAI TRAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A Vietnamese American took an early lead in the Garden Grove City Council race Tuesday night, signaling a possible first for the city.

"The Asian American community is a sizable and active community and it wants to be active in the democratic process," said Van Tran, a planning commissioner, who led eight candidates according to early returns.

In nearby Westminster, however, a record three Vietnamese Americans seeking seats on the council were trailing in early balloting. The highest vote getters were incumbents Kermit Marsh, Frank Fry Jr. and Joy L. Neugebauer.

The three Vietnamese American candidates--Phuoc "Peter" Bui, Duoc Nguyen and Andy Quach--were the largest field ever for the city, which is known for its Little Saigon business district.

The candidates said they believe the city needs to focus more on issues affecting Vietnamese Americans, including plans to attract tourists to Little Saigon and construction of a war memorial to commemorate the friendship between South Vietnamese and American soldiers.

Asians make up roughly a quarter of the city's 81,000 residents, and the council already has one Vietnamese American member.

These challengers argued the city needed new leadership, noting that the current council members have been involved in local politics since the 1970s.

The inexperience of the Vietnamese candidates hurt their chances, Quach said.

"It's hard for first timers," he said. "We're still learning the American process of campaigning."

Other issues in the race included how to pay for street improvements and other needed infrastructure projects.

In Irvine, a city built on the precept of planned growth, the biggest issues to surface were two major public works projects: the proposed airport at the closed El Toro Marine base and the county's plans to expand the James A. Musick Branch Jail.

Taking an early lead in the polls were Michael Ward, Chris Mears and Beth Krom.

Ward is an incumbent. Mears and Krom are part of a three-candidate slate backed by Councilman Larry Agran, who ran unopposed for mayor. Agran is the primary mover behind the city's push for a Great Park to replace the airfield. Mears' apparent victory, he said, signaled voters' wish for the airfield to be converted to open space.

"There's no question in my mind that the Great Park will come to fruition," he said.

Although nearly all of the 11 candidates seeking election to the City Council have taken a stand against the airport and the jail expansion, many have tried to distinguish themselves from the pack by putting a greater emphasis on the issues.

Campaign placards for candidates Kenneth L. Hansen and Ward bore the likeness of an airplane stamped with a red circle and slash to denote "no" on the airport proposal.

In Santa Ana, early returns signaled no major surprises, with Mayor Miguel A. Pulido pulling away along with incumbent Councilman Brett Franklin.

In the race for the seat of former Councilman Ted R. Moreno, Jose Solorio was far ahead of Mauro Morales.

Santa Ana's two candidates to replace Moreno in Ward 1, for the most part, focused not on each other's shortfalls but instead on the issues facing the city's barrio.

A time for change is how Solorio has viewed this election--a significant one for Ward 1 because there is no incumbent, and because the newcomer will be charged with representing a district that has greater needs.

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