What Made Michele Martinez Team Up with Van Tran?


Santa Ana City Council member and AD-69 candidate Michele Martinez made waves this weekend with a taped TV appearance on a Little Saigon TV program hosted by staunch Vietnamese conservative Van Tran.  Sporting a new black dye job, Martinez, sat across the table form Van Tran opposite a fake window set of New York City(!!??!!) to talk about issues that she cares about for the AD-69.

Gustavo Arellano of OC Weekly first reported this story yesterday on Naval Gazing.

I about spit out my Maker’s this evening when word came to me that SanTana councilwoman and 69th Assembly District hopeful Michele Martinez appeared on a Vietnamese-language channel here in Little Saigon, getting softball questions tossed at her by none other than former State Assembly member Van Thai Tran. Tran, the man who has long trashed Mexicans and tried to pit Vietnamese and Mexican voters against each other in a strategy only neo-Nazis and the Republican Party could love. Tran, the sworn enemy of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

Now if Martinez wanted a Vietnamese cable TV show to make the case, why go on Van Tran’s program when there is one hosted by Trung Ta and Bao Nguyen that actually favors Democratic points of view and Democratic values?  Fail on the part of Martinez’s PR team — the same team that refuses to let her speak to any media outlet that expresses the slightest criticism. And that list of publications and websites continues to grow especially after the Martinez “tweets on a train” story went national and went viral.  But Van Tran wants Martinez on the show, suuuuurrreeee let’s book that one.

Greg Diamond from the Orange Juice blog has a pretty good take.

This is one of those signal moments that embeds itself deeply into the political memory of a community.  Even the chance to win in June was not worse the years for which she might be paying for this one.  Should she and Tom Daly somehow get past Julio — less likely now than ever — she’s actually given Daly a talking point that he can use to ingratiate himself with the Latino community: “well, at least I haven’t gone onto TV and made nice with Van Tran.”  

In case Michele hasn’t yet figured it out, Loretta Sanchez — she with the longstanding good ties to the Vietnamese community — is going to be running in a district that largely overlaps AD-69.  She’ll be out campaigning.  If Julio makes the runoff, this just makes Loretta’s stake in his campaign that much stronger — because he hasn’t sucked up to Van Tran.  If Michele and Daly make the runoff, she will want Loretta to come to her aid — but that just got less likely because now she has sucked up to Van Tran.  That means that, for Latino voters who want the most Latino Assembly district in the state to be represented by a Latino, Michele just became a worse bet to keep it.

We agree with Diamond’s assessment that if it comes to a two horse race between Martinez and Daly, Daly scores points here by not kissing Van Tran’s ring.

Sanchez has already endorsed Perez in the race, so Martinez may have written off someone who was a political mentor and likely to be in office long after Martinez is termed out on the Santa Ana city council.  Not smart on Martinez’s part.  In her press release announcing poll results, the Martinez team went out of their way to reference the lack of a base by Julio Perez.  Perez simply lists Loretta Sanchez as am endorsement and for many in the district, that’s good enough.

We’ll note the criticisms of Sanchez’s 2010 election comments about “they’re trying to take away our seat” popped up.  Without qualifiers on the pronouns, they’re could mean “Vietnamese” or “Republicans” and “our seat” could mean a “Latino seat” or a “Democratic seat.”

If critics are going to stand by the notion that Loretta Sanchez played the race card, well so did Van Tran. From this story analyzing media coverage in the 2010 election:

Hao-Nhien Vu is the managing editor at Nguoi Viet Daily News in Westminster. It’s the largest Vietnamese-language newspaper in the United States.

He says his readers care more about the economy and jobs than immigration. But he says they also want to know how Tran or Sanchez would deal with Vietnam’s communist government.

“The community wants to know that their representatives in Washington will take care of issues of freedom of religion, issues of human rights, of freedom of speech, of arbitrary arrests, of dissidents — all of those issues that are happening in Vietnam,” Vu says.

But Vu says if you look at some Vietnamese blogs, mass e-mails and Internet-driven advocacy, there’s a different message.

“There’s a lot of people really going strongly in one way or another and really playing up race cards and, you know, ‘She’s a Mexican’ and ‘We’re Vietnamese. We ought to vote for Vietnamese.’ Or that Van Tran hasn’t been doing anything against the communists. Only Loretta did that,” Vu says.

“There’s a lot of totally fringe opinions like that. And, you know, if you add them all up together, it’s probably being seen by a lot of people.”

Vu says those blogs blasted Sanchez for her “Vietnamese” comment on Univision. But he says it didn’t make much of a wave in the mainstream Vietnamese media.

Part of the reason, he says, is the comment had to be translated from Spanish to English and then to Vietnamese. Vu says readers assumed the meaning may have been lost in translation. And Vu points out that Tran has played the race card, too.

“Part of the platform that Van Tran started running out of when he first announced, is that only a Vietnamese can really take care of the Vietnamese community. He’s been saying that a lot,” Vu says.

So when it comes to media screw ups, Martinez has the Tweets on a Train strike against her.  The Van Tran interview is Strike Two.


(Photo courtesy of OC Weekly)



  1. “What Made Michele Martinez Team Up with Van Tran?”

    They figured that between the two of them they might be able to muster one personality.

  2. On Art Pedroza’s blog, he asks:

    “Well, does Martinez’ appearance really mean that she agrees with Tran’s positions? That is quite a stretch.”

    That dynamic has never stopped him from engaging in guilt by association in the past. Does he need to be reminded of his take on the David Benavides “Hatergate” kerfuffle? What a hypocrite!

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