Councilman Manh Nguyen Still Refuses to Concede D4 Race

UPDATE: The second recount confirmed Lan Diep’s win just as the City Council certified the results. But Manh Nguyen demanded a do-over in November while threatening to sue the ROV over alleged incompetence.

Unless a lawsuit proves otherwise, Lan Diep remains District 4’s councilman-elect.

Two months since June’s primary election and hours ahead of a vote to confirm results that put the challenger ahead by a remarkably slim margin, San Jose’s North Side City Council incumbent refused to concede the race.

“What we have is a de facto tie,” Councilman Manh Nguyen declared in a last-minute memo, which hinted at legal action while imploring his colleagues to hold off on certifying the outcome at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Hours later, however, the council affirmed the results anyway just as a second recount ended with Diep still clinging to his 12-vote lead. Coincidentally, that’s close to the margin Nguyen held when he beat Diep last year. The pair first squared off for the seat in a 2015 special election to complete the term for Kansen Chu after his election to the state Assembly.

When Santa Clara County’s Registrar of Voters (ROV) certified the D4 results two weeks ago, Diep finished 28 votes ahead Nguyen out of 17,000 ballots cast. That the margin between contenders fell below half a percentage point triggered an automatic recount—a new rule enacted earlier this year.

The mandated recount dropped Diep’s lead to a dozen votes. But Nguyen still refused to concede, so he agreed to foot the $2,500-a-day bill for a second recount. Tuesday marked the 11th day, which cost Nguyen $27,500—and then some. He also enlisted a private attorney to keep an eagle-eye on the recount and sue the ROV over alleged missteps.

Unfortunately for Nguyen, his redux only affirmed victory for Diep, who won without any major endorsements and kept his hopes up as the latest recount hit the home-stretch.

Meanwhile, Nguyen’s lawyer, Bradley Hertz, sent a letter to the ROV demanding another review of all voided and duplicate ballots on the public dime. Hertz also called for a new election on Nov. 8 presidential ballot. 

The county responded some hours later wondering on what grounds the ROV should comply with that kind of request. 

“We are currently investigating the factual allegations in your letter,” James Williams, acting county counsel, wrote in a letter to Hertz (available here). “However, as an initial matter, we note that your letter does not identify the legal authority that you contend authorizes the relief that you request.”

ROV officials followed county policy and state election laws, Williams added, urging Hertz to point out what authority would supersede those guidelines.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. So…what’s going on here? My 2 cents…

    In 2015, when Orozco was the labor backed candidate, Lan Diep was the more polished chamber backed candidate. The takeaway from SBLC folks was that “Vietnamese vote” trumps an organization (like a lot of the local leaders raised money and walked for Orozco). Manh Nguyen owns a media company that functioned like labor or the chamber.

    This time it’s two Vietnamese people again so they got the same vote. Manh has been chamber…

    Reading through the lawyers memo, it seems like they discovered what everyone knows that races are run by overworked and under resourced ROV. If you nit pick at a Fortune 500 company and its internal workings you’ll fin stuff like this…the fact that the prescient votes were wide is not suprising.

    It’s a small amount of money to throw at trying to be keep being a city councilman I guess…

    It’s certainely not a stolen election or conspiracy IMHO…either way should be roughly the same city council on most votes…

  2. He lost by the same amount that he won last time – it’s time to move on and be classy in defeat like Lan was last time. Does Manh have nothing else going on in his life – this counbt should have been over two weeks ago after mandated recount reaffirmed vote. He needs to get beyond this – his obsession with photographing every ballot is meme-worthy

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