Candidates for two key races in central Orange County – First District county supervisor and the 46th congressional district – gathered at Santa Ana College Thursday for a forum hosted by local business and community groups.

In the supervisors’ race, incumbent Republican Supervisor Andrew Do is seeking to fend off challenges for his re-election from Democrat Santa Ana Councilwoman Michele Martinez and Republican Garden Grove Councilman Phat Bui.

Do emphasized his experience from the 14 months he’s served as supervisor, earning the trust of his fellow supervisors to take leadership on “many intractable issues” like homelessness, mental health, and public safety.

One example he highlighted was his creation of a point person at the county to coordinate all homelessness services, which hasn’t existed since the 1990s.

“For the first time…we will be able to measure how effective we have been in helping homeless individuals,” Do said.

Bui went after Do’s use of taxpayer money on event mailers that feature Do’s name prominently multiple times and could be in violation of the state’s Mass Mailing Act. Bui called it “wasteful” spending he would stop.

And Bui said bus service is being cut “while the county is spending money to promote the Tet Festival at Mile Square Park.” Bui said he would not spend money on such things as the Tet Festival, and  emphasized the need for the county to divert funding into more affordable housing and health care for seniors.

The other supervisor candidate to participate was Steve Rocco, who famously was elected in 2004 to the Orange Unified school board, where he would allege conspiracies from the dais involving murder and political corruption.

Thursday night was no different, with Rocco claiming in his opening statement that “there is systemic, institutionalized murder of people in Orange County” due to the appointment of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas as public administrator.

Several major contenders did not show up to the forum, including Martinez, who is the leading Democrat in the supervisorial race, and former state senators Lou Correa and Joe Dunn, considered the two frontrunners in the congressional race. Organizers said all candidates were invited.

Other candidates for Congress who didn’t participate were Rodolfo Rudy Gaona, Nancy Trinidad Marin and Louie A. Contreras.

The congressional candidates who did show up – Cmdr. Bob Peterson of the OC Sheriff’s Department, Garden Grove mayor Bao Nguyen and Irvine City Councilwoman Lynn Schott – fielded questions on immigration, tax policy, local crime issues, poverty and the war on drugs.

When asked what changes they would support to immigration policy, Nguyen said he would “put a stop to the massive police state, mass incarceration and deportations.”

Peterson supported assistance for undocumented immigrants already in the country but said the nation’s existing laws need to be enforced.

Schott said the number one priority would be to secure the country’s shared border with Mexico and implement existing laws while “respecting and enjoying the contributions” of immigrants to the country.

In regards to job growth, Schott emphasized the need to reduce rates of unemployment among young adults, whose current rate of unemployment is higher than the general population.

Nguyen proposed “rebuilding America” through labor unions and infrastructure funding, in order to hire young people in vocational jobs and stimulate the economy.

The forum was organized by the Santa Ana-based group Connect-to-Council, the chambers of commerce of Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, and Anaheim, as well as the Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce, and Santa Ana College.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. He can be reached at

Contact Thy Vo at or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

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