Republican County Supervisor Janet Nguyen is headed for the California State Senate, becoming the first Vietnamese elected official to reach the state’s highest legislative body.

With nearly 70 percent of precincts reporting into the early hours of Wednesday, Nguyen maintained a substantial lead garnering 61 percent of the district vote, which included portions of LA County, securing 60,125 votes.

Nguyen’s opponent, former Democratic State Assemblyman Jose Solorio was well behind throughout election night, only garnering 39 percent with 38,518 votes cast on his behalf.

The 34th State Senate race was one of the most closely watched in the state because of its potential to impact the current Democratic supermajority.

As such, more than $6 million was funneled to the two campaigns, according to secretary of state data, with Nguyen receiving more than $3.4 million in direct campaign contributions and Solorio taking in more than $2.6 million.

Those tallies included more than $1.6 million in largely corporate contributions steered through Democratic and Republican county parties. Both state parties also are estimated to have spent $5 million on the 34th State Senate race.

Yet as Nguyen prepares to enter the state senate, her fundraising has drawn the scrutiny of investigators with the Fair Political Practices Commission. 

According to court documents filed by the FPPC as part of its ongoing investigation, six Nguyen donors admitted to illegally receiving reimbursements for campaign contributions, which constitutes illegal campaign money laundering.

It isn’t the first time that the FPPC has probed Nguyen.

In 2012, after Nguyen took over the lead of CalOptima, Orange County’s managed care program for the poor and elderly, she received substantial support from the hospital interests just as she was working with lobbyists with the Hospital Association of Southern California to rewrite CalOptima’s governing ordinance.

Following a Voice of OC article and a grand jury report on CalOptima, the FPPC opened a probe on Nguyen, the CalOptima board, and all county supervisors except for Todd Spitzer.

Another Voice of OC article that looked at Nguyen’s votes on the CalOptima board led to an investigation by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, which ultimately publicly cleared Nguyen.

While Solorio hit Nguyen hard on many of the corruption allegations that continue to dog her, he never established his own campaign theme, resting mainly on attack mail.

Nguyen was a dogged campaigner and took advantage of her nearly seven years in office, coupling local residents to county programs, like CalOptima and free flu shot clinics.

She has established herself as a leading Republican with an eye toward health and human service programs that are in desperate need throughout the 34th state senate district and the central Orange County cities that make up the area.

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