Santa Clara County D2 candidate dismisses ‘cruel’ voter registration rumors
Former San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen filing her papers to run in the District 2 Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors race on May 1, 2023. Photo courtesy of Madison Nguyen.

Issues of cultural and family duty are becoming the center of controversy in a historic race that might seat Santa Clara County’s first Vietnamese American supervisor.

Madison Nguyen, a frontrunner candidate for the District 2 Board of Supervisors seat, is blasting a labor group supporting her chief opponent, Betty Duong, for fueling misinformation that Nguyen calls cruel and false about her true city of residence.

A pro-Duong political mailer funded by the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council argues Nguyen wasn’t legally eligible to vote in Santa Clara County at the time she decided to run for office, after Nguyen moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and purchased a home there in 2021. The mailer questions if Nguyen — who previously served as San Jose’s first Vietnamese councilmember from 2005 to 2014 — is eligible to run for local office and accuses her of not being committed to the county.

Nguyen rejected that assertion, arguing she’s familiar with the rules as a San Jose politician of nearly a decade, and explained her move between states to San José Spotlight.

In 2021, Nguyen said she and her family moved from San Jose to Las Vegas for a year and bought a home there to take care of her mother-in-law after her father-in-law died. Nguyen said the home was left to her mother-in-law when Nguyen returned to California. Nguyen said she moved back to San Jose for work in January 2023, staying with friends until she found a place of her own in March. Nguyen said her husband and child stayed a few months more in Nevada with her mother-in-law until late May, when they eventually followed Nguyen back to California.

“My mother-in-law lost her spouse of 44 years and she was in a complete state of shock and so was our entire family,” Nguyen told San José Spotlight. “I’m Vietnamese. Family is very important to me. I wanted to be a dutiful daughter-in-law and make sure she was OK. She needed me during the most difficult time and I thought I needed to be there for her. When she got back on her feet, everything was good and we moved back.”

While living in Las Vegas in 2022, Nguyen said she changed her voter registration to reflect her Nevada residency in order to lawfully cast a ballot in the midterm elections. When she moved back to Santa Clara County last year, she said she requested to change her voter registration back to San Jose in the beginning of March, roughly two months prior to announcing her D2 supervisor candidacy in May.

Nguyen provided receipts of her voter registration changes, which San José Spotlight reviewed. They show Nguyen put in a request to change her registration on March 9 and received an official voter card with proof of registration on April 28. Nguyen’s name did not come up on a review of the Nevada Secretary of State’s current registered voter roll.

A question of dedication

The South Bay Labor Council mailer claims voter records from Political Data, Inc. — a paid service used by campaigns to reach voters — show Nguyen wasn’t registered to vote in Santa Clara County when she announced her campaign. Nguyen insists she was officially registered by late April, and argued that any record otherwise reflects a delay in processing voter information.

Jean Cohen, executive officer of the South Bay Labor Council, insists Nguyen isn’t dedicated to the county.

“Due to her failed leadership, crime rates and homelessness spiraled out of control so badly that even Madison chose to make Las Vegas her family’s primary residence rather than stay in San Jose,” Cohen told San José Spotlight. “Voters deserve a candidate truly dedicated to the future of our community rather than gambling on another failed politician scrambling to find a new job.”

Both Nguyen and Duong are seen as frontrunners in the race for D2 supervisor, spelling a possible milestone for Santa Clara County’s Vietnamese community. The other candidates in the race are Alum Rock Union School District Trustee Corina Herrera-LoeraJennifer Celaya, the Native American founder of the nonprofit New Beginnings, and Nelson McElmurry, a practicing attorney.

Nguyen is viewed as pro-business while Duong is viewed as pro-labor.

Nguyen blasted the South Bay Labor Council for attacking her integrity over what she argued was a family matter.

“I understand politics can get negative, but this is a cruel attack on my family. It really is. Come on. I went to another city to care for my family and I got attacked for this?” Nguyen said.

Duong said she isn’t responsible for the mailer.

“The mailer that you are describing did not come from our campaign. We had nothing to do with it. I recommend you reaching out to the entities that sent it,” Duong told San José Spotlight.

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

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