Supervisor Janet Nguyen, with the backing of top Republican leaders in the state Senate, is running for the open seat being vacated in 2014 by Democratic Sen. Lou Correa of Anaheim, according to an announcement on Nguyen’s campaign website.
Nguyen, who easily won re-election in June to her 1st District supervisorial seat in the Garden Grove, Westminster, west Anaheim area, will face at least two legislative veterans for the 34th state Senate seat.
Former Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio and former GOP Assemblyman Jim Silva both have created fundraising committees to run for Correa’s seat, according to records on the secretary of state’s website.
Nguyen has a $408,495.56 war chest left over from her campaigns for supervisor. According to the Fountain Valley Patch, Solorio told City News Service he also has more than $400,000.
The 34th Senate District, which got new boundaries in the 2011 redistricting, runs from a small section of Long Beach in Los Angeles County south into Huntington Beach and east through Fountain Valley, Garden Grove and Westminster to Santa Ana and north to the Disneyland area of Anaheim and a small section of Fullerton.
About 930,000 people live in the district that has 326,206 registered voters, including the traditionally Republican Little Saigon area.
Districtwide, Democrats outnumber Republicans 125,064 to 116,602, but there also are 71,108 voters who belong to no political party. Historically, Republicans are more likely to vote than Democrats, and those who don’t belong to either party tend to vote for the GOP.
But Solorio, according to the Fountain Valley Patch, said the district is about one-third Latino, a group that traditionally favors Democrats. Just 15 percent are Vietnamese.
“In a district that gets bluer by the day we have a two-point Democratic advantage, and given the trends in the district and the state, that's going to grow," he said.
Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses of the state Legislature. The Senate membership is 27 Democrats — enough to pass any legislation without Republican votes —11 Republicans and two vacancies.
Nguyen announced she has the support of Senate minority leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ted Gaines of Rocklin in Placer County and Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine).
“Janet Nguyen is a public servant who works tirelessly for the people of her district. She will be a great addition to the State Senate and I am pleased to endorse her,” said Huff, according to Nguyen’s announcement.
Nguyen, who lives in Garden Grove, was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2007 and previously served on the Garden Grove City Council. She and her husband Tom Bonikowski have two sons, one born last week.
She has been the subject of controversy in recent weeks after an Orange County grand jury report that blamed the Board of Supervisors for looking the other way while Nguyen took control of CalOptima, the county health plan for low income, disabled and elderly residents. Her changes increased the influence of the health care industry and created upheaval at the $1.5-billion agency, where 16 top and key executives left for jobs in private industry or other government organizations.
“Political turmoil threatens the organization, jeopardizing its membership’s access to quality healthcare and potentially putting the entire entity at risk,” concluded the grand jury report.
Among other issues, the grand jury raised questions about a fundraiser that was held for Nguyen by the hospital industry and its lobbying arm — the Hospital Association of Southern California — not long afterthe association reportedly helped draft the changes to the county ordinance that governs CalOptima.
Nguyen sharply criticized the grand jury report, saying it got some key facts wrong regarding the hospital association's involvement in the ordinance changes. Last week, CalOptima CEO Michael Schrader said the grand jury is planning two more reports on the agency.