Incumbent Loses Lead in San Jose’s District 4 Council Race

At first it looked like San Jose’s District 4 Councilman Manh Nguyen would hang on to his seat—just barely.

But each new round of results since Tuesday’s election narrowed his lead over opponent Lan Diep. By Friday morning, Diep pulled ahead by a 12-vote margin.


Thousands of votes have yet to be counted, but the two-time challenger took to Twitter to celebrate the milestone.

“For now, I'm basking in this moment of being ahead,” Diep wrote in an email Friday. “Though with this narrow a margin I know the result can certainly still change.”

Mercury News reporter Ramona Giwargis noted in her update today that it’s a surprising outcome. Analysts expected an easy win for the incumbent, who landed major endorsements—including an unenthusiastic nod from the Merc.

Diep, a 32-year-old legal aid attorney, lost last year’s special election for the North Valley seat. In messages to his supporters, he said he ran again because Nguyen has proven himself unfit for the job.

“Personally, I believe we deserve more than a councilman who comes to meetings ill-prepared and asks questions that have already been answered either because he does not understand what has been discussed, or because he is not paying attention,” Diep told his supporters a week before the election.

San Jose Inside called Nguyen for comment, but he hung up without saying a word. He then texted back: “Sorry I could not take your call. Please leave a text message. Thank you.” We obliged, but have yet to hear a response.

Apparently, he’s been MIA at City Hall, too.

Meanwhile, Diep has been posting updates about the neck-and-neck race, which may not see an official count until next month. According to Santa Clara County’s Registrar of Voters (ROV) spokeswoman Anita Torres, the deadline to certify election results is July 7.

Still to be counted, she said, are 40,000 mail-in ballots and thousands more postmarked on Election Day. A state law enacted a couple of years ago required election officials to include ballots mailed the day of, which potentially adds to the overall tally.

Finally, the ROV will have to sift through 30,000 provisional ballots, which get issued when election officials can’t immediately determine a person’s eligibility to vote. Provisional ballots require more research and counting than regular ballots, so those results take longer to post.

Should we expect a recount? Perhaps, Torres says. If the margin is less than half a percent, a recount is automatic. That, by the way, is a new rule passed by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year.

There’s a chance the final results will be announced ahead of the July deadline, Torres said, but only a slim one. Every morning until then, the registrar’s office will post a new tally online here

To keep up with Diep’s lively commentary on this nail-biter of a contest, check out his Facebook and Twitter

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


  1. Lan Diep really is the success story of the election. It is depressing to see Sylvia Arenas bank her friendship with Nightingale Carrasco into a runoff placement based in money from Indian Gaming, but when you discover that Diep won, you have to admit that the system works.

  2. Good grief!

    I read Jennifer’s article.

    I read Diep’s fundraising appeal to voters.

    I STILL don’t know anything about him that would be a meaningful criterion for casting a vote for or against.

    I guess the first place I would look is endorsements.

    Who has endorsed Lan Diep?

    Who has endorsed Manh Nguyen?

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