Portrait of two Vietnamese women.
Betty Duong (left) and Madison Nguyen are considered frontrunners in the March primary election for the District 2 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

The potentially historic race to become East San Jose’s next voice in countywide policy making is heating up.

A new poll this month funded by a pro-business political action committee shows two Vietnamese American candidates as the frontrunners for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors District 2 seat, with former San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen in the lead followed by Betty Duong, chief of staff for terming out D2 Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

Other candidates include Alum Rock Union School District Trustee Corina Herrera-Loera, Jennifer Celaya, the Native American founder of the nonprofit New Beginnings, and Nelson McElmurry, a practicing attorney.

Political consulting group Pathfinder Strategies conducted the poll between Jan. 9 and Jan. 13. Live operators called the landlines and cell phones of 400 likely primary voters in Santa Clara County. The poll results have a 5% margin of error. The Strong Economy Silicon Valley PAC funded the poll.

The poll claims Nguyen has the highest percentage of voters considering her as either a first or second choice, and that she’s the only candidate reaching above 50% of voters considering her. Duong follows at 38%, with Herrera-Loera at 33%, McElmurray at 13% and Celaya at 10%.

Nguyen also leads Duong in the polling among Vietnamese American voters specifically, the poll shows, with McElmurry and then Celaya following.

Nguyen did not respond to a request for comment. She has already made history as San Jose’s first Vietnamese American councilmember and vice mayor. If elected to the county’s District 2, she’ll have a second milestone under her belt as the first Vietnamese American supervisor.

Duong said the polling affirms her belief she’s a contender.

“Our boots-on-the-ground approach — knocking on doors and engaging with voters — is making a real impact. District 2 residents are yearning for progress on issues like housing, homelessness and public safety, and I’m ready to turn those aspirations into action,” Duong told San José Spotlight.

The poll also shows Herrera-Loera either neck-and-neck with or close behind Duong in some areas, leaving it open as to who may be in contention with Nguyen after the primary.

“As an elected representative of East San Jose, I am driven by our grassroots campaign’s commitment to understanding and amplifying voter concerns, fostering a movement for positive change in a hard-fought race where every vote will count,” Herrera-Loera told San José Spotlight.

The outcome of the race could see the first ever Vietnamese American elected to the board of supervisors. For years, Vietnamese residents have struggled to find their political voice despite San Jose boasting the largest city population of Vietnamese people outside of Vietnam. Other than Nguyen, who served on the San Jose City Council from 2005 through 2014, there have been no other Vietnamese Americans who served two terms in San Jose.

With Nguyen seen as pro-business and Duong seen as pro-labor, there are questions of whether the race will further fuel a longtime ideological divide in the community through intergenerational differences, as well as language barriers between older conservative and younger liberal progressive Vietnamese residents.

“Madison built a very strong reputation of getting the job done and people remember that,” political consultant Victor Gomez, who manages the Strong Economy Silicon Valley PAC, told San José Spotlight. “Here she is eight years later, coming in with some really strong numbers.”

Gomez added that it will be interesting to see which two candidates advance from the primary, though he expressed confidence Nguyen will be one of them.

“Having a Madison-versus-Corina race or a Madison-versus-Betty race could be completely different,” he said.

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

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