More than half of 24 Vietnamese Americans running for the midterm elections in Orange County, California, share the same last name Nguyen.
The candidates, vying for different positions, are concentrated in Little Saigon, an enclave consisting of Fountain Valley, Garden Grove and Westminster.
Of these candidates, 13 share the last name “Nguyen,” the most common Vietnamese surname to date.
“Wow, the signs are everywhere!” the Los Angeles Times quoted Chau Nguyen, a candidate, as saying. “I had no idea we had so many possibilities from our community. This is amazing. Why is everyone surfacing now?”
The wave of Vietnamese political candidates comes amid the group’s increasing influence in Orange County’s policies, according to Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor at University of California, Riverside.
“It shows the power of the Vietnamese at the ballot box, spreading their influence in central O.C. politics,” Ramakrishnan told the LA Times. “What you’re seeing now is the seed that was planted decades ago when the first Vietnamese ran and succeeded.”
Ramakrishnan was referring to Tony Lam’s victory in 1992, when he won a seat on the Westminster City Council. He is the first Vietnamese-born American elected for a U.S. office.
“Over time, with so many wins, it built the farm team for future candidates…. The numbers have grown so high that people are encouraged to enter the ring,” Ramakrishnan added.
The rising political interest has led to a Nguyen vs. Nguyen case, such as in Garden Grove’s Council District 3, where Duy Nguyen challenges incumbent Councilwoman Thu-Ha Nguyen.
“I don’t see anything special about our name. It’s a normal name,” said Duy, a commercial banker and small-business owner. “Many people vote along the party line, not for a name.”
Thu-Ha, a supervisor in the hematology-oncology department of a clinical laboratory, said that her campaign focuses on her first name.
“It can be overwhelming that there are many Vietnamese choices, but that’s why our camp is focused on my first name — Thu-Ha, Thu-Ha. We try to repeat it as well as get the message out for what we stand for — responsible leadership.”
The surname “Nguyen” originates from a dynasty that ruled Vietnam for more than 140 years until Communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh took power in 1945. Now, up to 40% of Vietnamese people answer to the name, according to Atlas Obscura.
Regardless of surnames, Vietnamese Americans tend to be united as a voting bloc. The group has also been historically Republican primarily due to their former status as communists, Fox News noted.