Vietnamese media exec Manh Nguyen held on to his fundraising lead in San Jose’s special election for the District 4 council seat. The 62-year-old north San Jose resident raised $95,176 by the latest reporting period, which ended last Friday—about a third from in-kind donations in the form of media spots in his broadcast and print outlets.
One of his opponents, public interest attorney Lan Diep, questioned the validity of those figures in a press release Monday, but it appears he spoke too soon.
Diep sent out a press release alleging that Nguyen failed to submit a Form 500, which indicates whether or not a candidate accepts the voluntary spending cap. Diep’s advisor, Karin Cogbill, filed a complaint with the City Clerk’s office.
“As a former lawyer and someone looking to lead District 4, Mr. Nguyen should appreciate the importance of complying with San Jose’s own election laws,” she said. “In this case, Form 500 is a simple, yet important document that must be turned in before a candidate can begin accepting contributions.”
It’s true that a candidate must turn in a Form 500 if they agree to the expenditure limit (which amounts to $137,198, or $1.25 per council district resident). They could also submit one if they want to opt out. But, City Clerk Toni Taber told San Jose Inside that candidates don’t necessarily have to submit the form. If they don’t, it’s assumed that they didn’t agree to the cap.
Nguyen said he chose to forgo the spending limit because he planned to make significant in-kind contributions to his own campaign.
“[W]e wanted to make sure we stayed within the rules while keeping everything above board,” Peter Allen, Nguyen's campaign manager, told San Jose Inside. “We are honored to have received more than $62,000 in cash contributions from hundreds of individuals in San Jose and District 4. We’re confident that the voters will make their decision in this race based on who is the most qualified candidate, not specious allegations from candidates trying to deflect attention from the fact that they’ve only lived in the district for five months.”
Diep, who turns 31 this month, finished third in fundraising, with $46,285 by the latest deadline. Though he split the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce endorsement with Nguyen, the chamber spent upward of $56,000 through an independent expenditure committee to promote just Diep’s campaign.
After a lagging start, retired realtor Bob Dhillon, 72, pulled up to a close second behind Nguyen. He finished with just $11,250 before January, and submitted the form agreeing to the spending cap, but garnered nearly $90,000 to date with strong support from the south Asian community.
Coming in fourth behind Diep was Rudy Nasol, 40. The four-time Berryessa Union School Board president loaned himself $20,000, bringing his total to $26,050
San Jose police officer Khoa Nguyen, 30, raised $18,430 —$10,000 of which he loaned to his campaign. Khoa Nguyen became the youngest elected person in Santa Clara County when he won a seat on the Berryessa Union School District Board of Trustees six years ago at the age of 24.
Labor endorsee Tim Orozco held off from campaigning until January, which left him with $16,471 by the end of last week. The 50-something policy aide for state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) boasts support from a handful of local unions, as well as county supervisors Cindy Chavez and Ken Yeager.
Johnny Lee, a 30-year-old energy consultant and trained chiropractor, reported $5,466.
The special election takes place April 7, with early voting beginning March 9. The district counts 40,345 registered voters, according to the Registrar of Voters. Most candidates have said they expect a turnout of around 10,000.