Forgetting Saigon

Madison Nguyen’s election-night party wasn’t exactly hard to find. Blue-and-white “Re-elect Madison Nguyen” fliers appeared with increasing regularity as Metro neared M Cafe on Burdette Drive in San Jose, a hip Asian joint that serves coffee while showing sports on TVs.

Apparently, the Nguyen campaign had more posters and fliers than it knew what to do with, because the inside of the large room was stuffed with banners and campaign materials. Maybe that was the strategy, in order to wipe out any memories of the Little Saigon imbroglio by inundating voters with “Vote Nguyen” posters for the San Jose City Council District 7 incumbent.

The blue and white of the posters re-created the upper parts of the walls as well, which might explain the new-paint smell that stifled any of the scents coming from the hybrid American-Vietnamese buffet. There were enough egg rolls and sugary sodas to send everyone into sugar shock.

Not 30 seconds after arriving, Nguyen’s attentive campaign manager, Theresa Le, politely asked who I was. She brought over Penny Aguila and Robert Sandoval, volunteers who contributed time to the campaign.

“I have seen the changes that she has done,” Aguila said. “It was so bad before, and now it’s so clean and nice.” She told me that the Little Saigon issue was history, but surely it was on the mind of everyone at the event.

In the middle of the room, eight large TVs showed the Lakers-Celtics match-up. About a third of the 100 or so people present were watching the game intently, ignoring the preliminary vote count displayed on a projection monitor in the corner.

Le grabbed the microphone and gave a play-by-play commentary in English and Vietnamese on the voting results. People cheered as she announced that Nguyen had a hefty 1,000-vote lead in early returns.

Miss Vietnam Northern California walked around the party in her crown and sash, beaming and shaking hands. She asked me to sign a shirt supporting Nguyen, but I politely declined.

A solitary man in the corner named Bill Lewis turned out to be Nguyen’s high school counselor from Modesto. He said that he wasn’t surprised that she was elected—he remembered how motivated she was in school.

Le began speaking again, but this time her words were met with thunderous applause. Nguyen had somehow slipped into the party and was standing right next to Le. As Nguyen took the microphone, the crowd quieted down.

Nguyen thanked everyone for their support in English and Vietnamese, then handed the microphone back and started hugging people, confident that her victory was all but assured.

— Adam Murphy

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

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