Democratic members of San Jose’s Vietnamese community are building a club to mobilize its political front.
The Vietnamese American Democratic Club of Silicon Valley wants to be chartered within the Santa Clara County Democratic Party to organize and empower like-minded members within its community. The party’s executive board gave approval in December, sending the the club to the central committee’s Jan. 11 meeting with an accreditation request.
Representation for San Jose’s Vietnamese population has been sparse, despite comprising more than 10% of the city’s population. San Jose has more Vietnamese residents than any other U.S. city outside Vietnam. The residents, many of whom are immigrants, have historically struggled with economic inequities in resources and services, along with language barriers.
Buu Thai, the inaugural president of the Vietnamese American Democratic Club of Silicon Valley, said she has been hearing conversations about this sort of club for decades—but nothing was done until now.
“It’s no longer just because you’re Vietnamese and you’re on the ballot,” Thai told San José Spotlight. “We want our community to be voting smart and to be voting for candidates who have a track record, who can get things done.”
Thai hopes the club will organize and reach out to Democratic Vietnamese residents about a variety of equity and access issues facing the community. As a former Franklin McKinley School District board member, Thai said the club would give guidance to Vietnamese candidates running for local elections, since the process can be difficult to navigate.
Betty Duong, who is running for District 2 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, said she was eager to sign up for the club when she learned of it. Duong said the club will be able to bring more visibility to many issues facing Vietnamese residents and engage candidates about their community support in formal settings.
“Being able to have a Vietnamese voice within the Democratic movement allows us to further elevate issues that are affecting our specific community while being able to support the broader issues affecting the Asian American community,” Duong told San José Spotlight.
The District 2 race will be a first for the Vietnamese community, with both Duong and former San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, the city’s first Vietnamese American councilmember who served from 2005-2014, competing along with others for the open seat.
Lan Nguyen, inaugural vice president of the democratic club, said creating structure is important because his group will serve as the formal organization behind certain Democratic issues or candidates. The Vietnamese community has many groups within itself, but Nguyen said there has been no organized way to rally them together—and in the past, efforts to support candidates, measures or issues were disjointed.
“Many of us have networks in the community because of how long we have been here and how involved we’ve been, but there isn’t a vehicle or an organization,” Nguyen told San José Spotlight. “Now we’re saying, ‘We have this and we’re all democrats, so let’s see if we can get together.'”
Santa Clara County Democratic Party Chair Bill James said he is enthusiastic about the club’s future. The party has already made its endorsements for the March primaries, so the new club will not be able to participate in those decisions. But James said there is ample opportunity for the club to mobilize around certain candidates’ campaigns and voter outreach in the elections.
“It’s a very natural way for our party to increase our involvement in connection with the Vietnamese community,” James told San José Spotlight.
Thai said she wants to engage with the Vietnamese community at events in February, during the lunar new year holiday, and hopes the club will be chartered so it can begin mobilizing in time for the March 5 primaries.
“Our club is based on democratic values and priorities, so we really hope to bring people that really believe in that approach together and be a bridge builder,” Thai said.