This piece originally ran Jan. 15, 2016
Of the nation’s 435 congressional districts, none have a greater proportion of Vietnamese residents than California’s 19th. According to the 2014 American Community Survey, 10 percent of this San Jose-based district is Vietnamese-American. Though Orange County’s Vietnamese community is larger than San Jose’s, the Vietnamese population is spread between several different districts in Southern California while they’re more concentrated here. And while the Vietnamese population is large, Latinos make up 42 percent of the seat’s population.
The 19th is centered around San Jose, the third-largest city in California and the 10th largest nationwide. Because San Jose’s airport was built so close to downtown, San Jose has a very modest skyline compared to other big cities. Still, downtown San Jose, which is contained within the 19th, includes notable landmarks like the Tech Museum of Innovation, the Children’s Discovery Museum, and the SAP Center at San Jose, the home of the hockey team the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are San Jose’s only major league baseball, basketball, football, or hockey team (though the San Fransisco 49ers now play nearby in Santa Clara). The district also contains Morgan Hill and part of Gilroy, nicknamed the “Garlic Capital of the World.”
The district also contains San Jose’s Little Saigon neighborhood, which was the center of a major controversy in 2007 and 2008. The city council, including Vietnamese immigrant Madison Nguyen, originally voted to call the area the “Saigon Business District.” The move infuriated many local Vietnamese activists, who viewed the name Little Saigon as a symbol of their opposition to Vietnam’s communist government. The debate took on a new urgency when prominent activist Ly Tong undertook a month-long hunger strike. The council ended up backing down and named the area Little Saigon. Angry activists tried to recall Nguyen the next year, but she survived and won re-election.
California’s 19th Congressional District
The 19th, like most Bay Area seats, is heavily Democratic: Obama won 71-27 here, and Clinton carried it 73-22. Since 1995, the district has been represented by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren. Lofgren got her political start working for San Jose Congressman Don Edwards, who was a prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate scandal. Lofgren served on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors until Edwards retired in 1994, and she ran to succeed him.
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