UPDATE: Betty Duong inches ahead in race for District 2 Santa Clara County supervisor
Betty Duong energizes supporters after results show her making the November runoff for the District 2 Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors seat on March 5, 2024. Photo by Brandon Pho.

The contest for District 2 Santa Clara County supervisor looks to be historic, with two Vietnamese American women leading the field for the open seat.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Betty Duong is in first place with 31.8% of the vote, bumping Madison Nguyen to the second place position with 29% of the vote. Corina Herrera-Loera is in third with 23.8%, Nelson McElmurry is trailing with 9.8% of the vote and Jennifer Celaya is netting 5.4% of the vote.

The early results include a voter turnout of about 37.3%, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. The registrar’s office is expecting turnout for this primary election to land at about 35% to 45%, officials said on Election Day. There are approximately 1,025 unprocessed ballots remaining.

The top two candidates in the primary will face each other in a runoff during the general election in November.

As Nguyen waited for the polls to close on election night, the former San Jose vice mayor said she feels nervous, as she reenters the political arena vying for a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

“Our platform around accountability really resonated with voters,” Nguyen told San José Spotlight. “I have talked to thousands of voters in the last 10 months.”

A woman stands inside holding a bouquet of flowers.
District 2 Santa Clara County supervisor candidate Madison Nguyen at her election night party on March 5, 2024. Photo by Brandon Pho.

Nguyen became the first Vietnamese American member of the San Jose City Council in 2005 and vice mayor in 2011, serving until 2014. She made unsuccessful runs for San Jose mayor in 2014 and state Assembly in 2016. Since then, Nguyen has held executive positions at the nonprofit Hunger at Home and San Jose Chamber of Commerce, and currently works as the executive vice president of marketing company AsianNet Media.

Nguyen hosted her watch party at Pier 402, whose owner June Tran said she jumped at the opportunity to support Nguyen as a candidate who is accessible and pro-business.

“Having her here is an opportunity to bring together the community,” Tran told San José Spotlight. “She’s a hard-working lady who puts residents first.”

With Supervisor Cindy Chavez terming out at the end of the year, five candidates stepped up to succeed her and represent District 2, which lies entirely within San Jose.

Duong, Chavez’s chief of staff, is in second place. Her and Nguyen have been seen as frontrunners in the race, spelling a possible milestone for Santa Clara County’s Vietnamese community. The other candidates Alum Rock Union School District Trustee Herrera-Loera, McElmurry, a practicing attorney, and Celaya, the Native American founder of the nonprofit New Beginnings, are trailing behind.

Duong’s election watch party took place at a flooring warehouse to hammer in her wide support among San Jose’s labor groups. It was a full blown party — with a play area for kids, drinks for the adults and loud music. Results that showed her in second place roused cheers.

“It just shows the incredible impact you can make as a first-time candidate when you listen to the needs of the people,” Duong told San José Spotlight about her standing in early returns. “I consider tonight a victory.”

Duong sees this race as a continuation of the work her in the county, where she led the Vietnamese American Service Center project, and as special counsel for the Vietnamese American Workers’ Rights Project at Legal Aid at Work. She served as the public information officer for the Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center during the COVID-19 pandemic, and helped create the county’s first language access services project.

Marisol Ornelas, director of admissions for the 90-year-old private school Hillbrook, said she saw the makings of a leader in Duong before she ran.

“She’s an example of a grassroots level leader that I want in Santa Clara County,” Ornelas told San José Spotlight.

Duong has raised the most money in the race with $260,835. Nguyen came in second with $245,490, followed by McElmurry with $119,510, Herrera-Loera with $62,260 and Celaya with $6,000.

This story will be updated.

Contact Brandon Pho at [email protected] or @brandonphooo on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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