Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran Condemns Malicious Ad Linking Him to Communist Vietnam

A campaign mailer painting Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran as a communist seems to have backfired by drawing fierce condemnation on whoever sent the offending literature.

The first-term mayor, who’s defending his seat against four challengers, linked Councilman Anthony Phan to the hit pieces, one of which overlays a photo Tran on the Vietnamese flag with a question that translates to, “Who is this yellow star going to be fighting for?” The other side features images of a Ho Chi Minh statue and a Catholic priest detained by Vietnamese police.

Mayor Tran said the attacks are an affront to his family and particularly his mother, who risked her life by fleeing war-torn Vietnam. In a Facebook post Sunday, Tran said his aunt died on the journey and his mother only survived because she was rescued at sea.

“This hate mail cannot be any more painful for my family,” he wrote. “What hurts even more, is that I’m actually a member of the United States Armed Forces, swearing my life away to protect and serve our country.”

Tran said he points the finger at Phan—a fellow Vietnamese American—because the South Bay SV Community Coalition PAC, which authorized the mailers, shares a phone number with the councilman and his consulting firm Invictus Strategy.

“He is responsible for the hate mailer associating me with the communist Vietnamese government,” Tran wrote in Sunday’s status update along with a screenshot of the mailer. “It’s just as extreme as if it were the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazis, in the Vietnamese-American refugee community.”

The mayor demanded that Phan relinquish his council seat—or else.

“If he does not resign, I will personally walk across Milpitas to get every signature I need for a recall,” Tran told San Jose Inside in a phone call Monday. He later added: “I knew I should have never accepted his friend request on Facebook.”

Vietnamese-American San Jose Councilman Lan Diep penned an open letter that echoed Tran’s denunciation. “I will leave it to the voters in Milpitas to decide whether Mayor Tran deserves a second term,” Diep wrote. “However, this Vietnamese-language mailer attacking him deserves special condemnation.”

Linking Tran to communism diminishes the suffering of Vietnamese refugees, Diep continued. Though the Vietnamese community has come a long way since first arriving in the U.S., he said time has not healed the trauma of losing their homeland to an oppressive regime. While red-baiting may be ineffective to most Americans, Diep explained, it’s painful and triggering for many Vietnamese Americans.

In San Jose, mailers emblazoned with the Vietnamese flag and a photo of Magdalena Carrasco arguably cost the future vice mayor the 2010 election against District 5 Councilman Xavier Campos. Whoever resorted to the same tactic in Milpitas did so knowing full well the pain, confusion and outrage it would cause, Diep said.

“The South Bay SV Community Coalition PAC recognizes the Vietnamese American community’s suffering at the hands of communists, and intentionally sought to exploit that pain for political gain,” he wrote. “Instead of helping the Vietnamese American community move forward, the authors of this mailer have sought to move the community backwards. Such actions are the result of poor judgement and a wicked heart.”

In addition to landing a low blow, the mailers’ sender may have violated election laws. Tran’s campaign manager Justin Lardinois filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission claiming that the South Bay SV Community Coalition failed to file the proper disclosure forms with the City Clerk’s Office.

Phan initially declined to comment when reached via text Monday, but he defended the attack ads in a statement emailed later in the day on behalf of the PAC.

“The mailer criticizes certain actions committed by Tran as undemocratic in nature and disrespectful to not only the Vietnamese community in Milpitas, but also throughout the United States,” the PAC press release reads. “Such actions include Tran’s attempts to extend own mayoral term, Tran’s negligence of disclosing communications received from the Vietnamese government, Tran’s disregard for open-meeting laws, Tran’s perversion of the Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag (by wearing it as a towel and having it touch the ground), Tran’s censorship of dissenting views on social media.”

Phan acknowledged that the mailer was provocative, but that it counts as free speech.

“Literature critical of officials in authoritarian governments, such as Vietnam, is explicitly banned,” the statement continued. “Retaliation and harassment is almost guaranteed by those criticized. Even coverage of such controversy by journalists, similar to what you are reading right now, is not permitted. South Bay SV Community Coalition PAC condemns government retribution of adversaries, we stand in solidarity with dissidents and journalists currently detained by the Vietnamese government, and we call for their immediate release.”

This article has been updated to include a response from Phan.

It's unclear how many of these mailers were sent to Milpitas voters over the weekend. (Source: Facebook)

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

15 Comments

  1. This has got to stop. Tran could be attacked for many things he did as Mayor. The red baiting tactic goes all the way to Madison Nguyen. [email protected]@@

    Sadly it happens in Miami as well with Cuban American candidates.

    Tran says his parents were refugees. I remember 1975, the horror of the helicopter escapes. The boat people escapes. It really happened. This has to end. 43 years ago!!

    So.sad for Tran

  2. Phan clearly was behind this hit piece based on the evidence presented here, which is shameful. Fits completely with his history of ignoring the morality of his actions for political expediency. Phan just wants to try to use and manipulate the Vietnamese community to his own ends. Frankly it’s an insult to the community he claims to represent that he thinks he can so easily play on their prejudices, and deeply offensive given the reality of what Tran’s family has gone through as refugees.

    From his mockery of his constituents to his transparent flouting of campaign finance laws, I don’t know how long Phan can get away with this sort of behavior. He’s so consistently toxic it boggles my mind.

    • Just updated the article after confirming that the PAC statement could be attributed to Phan.

      • Go to San Jose City Clerk, there you will find Silicon Valley Community Coalition. Interestingly, this committee is linked to Victor Gomez. If you check further into Phan, you will note his 700 listed involvement with a consulting firm linked to Gomez.

  3. Rich tran is not one to speak. He trashes other candidates and then throws a fit when they do the same to him. As an American I could care less of who is fighting over another flag of another country. This is america and the flag of this country should be the only one that Americans care about. Rich Tran being in the United states military should be fighting for the red white and blue,not over a RED OR YELLOW flag of another country. These two vietnamese men are bringing a Vietnam war to the people of Milpitas which most of us Americans can care less about.
    If tran cannot shut up about his insults about other candidates then he has no room to cry when they do they same to him.
    Tran has given so many half truths about his record of attending city council meetings, about republic garbage collecting contracts and so forth, he has no leadership qualities and has done very little for the city of Milpitas.

    • The points made are legitimate, but why is a Political Action Committee set up by Victor Gomez in Hollister being used by his business partner Anthony Phan? And why does Phan and Gomez pull out the Commie card? So if Tran was Italian, would the mailer use Mussolini? It was wrong to accuse Madison Nguyen of this, but are Sparky and Jughead using the Commie card? So if you put all mailer for Guido Mob Pizza run by Victor Gomez it is ok if you say well, Victor uses mob tactics? No it would be racist and vile

      • Search the internet and you find many events and pictures which Madison Nguyen is dealing with the big scumbag commies in Vietnam.

    • Is this Tom Clavel trying to be anonymous? Haters gonna hate. It’s obvious Tom especially bringing up your measure and project to trick Milpitas residents in council. Good day to you Tom.

      • That wasn’t me. I don’t do anonymous comments. I post opinions based on facts, which I also share, and I sign. There’s more than one person who doesn’t appreciate Rich tran’s attitude towards others.

        By the way, Aaron, why does a person who lives in Sacramento care so much about Milpitas politics? Why don’t you openly share that you are not a resident of Milpitas? Tom C.

  4. Tran and Phan both need to shut up and focus on the issues at home here in Milpitas. Focus on solving the issues that the citizens and our communities are facing, not another flag or another country. Stop the dirty attacks.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with you they should be focusing on the issues regarding Milpitas not fighting over another flag of another country. They are here to represent this people in this country in this city and represent the flag that is
      Flying over our nation and the City Hall where they work at. Richard Tran should be ashamed of himself while wearing the uniform of the United States of America’s military and still paying tribute to a communist country such as a Vietnam regardless of what flag they fly. The Vietnamese people at one time fled their country for one reason or another however today they have become citizens of this country and they have to grow to know the values and what the flag stands for of this country it is a shame to hear these elected officials tearing into each other at each other about values about a flag from a different country.
      Richard Tran has did little for the city of Milpitas and that is the issue here it is time that he goes lots of people are tired of his lying and his deceitfulness of telling the truth to the citizens of Milpitas

  5. While my family and I were waiting in the lobby of the Korean Gen restaurant in Milpitas, Rich Tran walks in and leans over the desk and asks the hostess, “hi, I’m Rich Tran, do you have a table for me?
    It was obvious, this guy was using his “mayor” card to jump the line. Another time, I was at 24 hour fitness working out, you can see Rich Tran holding his head up high waiting for people to notice him.

    • On top of all that, everyone should see the stuff he is putting out against the other candidates, especially Esteves who served 12 years and was responsible for the development of Milpitas when Milpitas was “very small.”

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