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72nd Assembly District race pits Republican Janet Nguyen against Democrat Diedre Nguyen

Orange County’s 72nd Assembly District will soon be represented by Assemblywoman Nguyen.

But that’s the only certainty heading into Election Day. The Nguyen who takes the tight race could be former state senator Janet Nguyen, a Republican, or Garden Grove Councilwoman Diedre Nguyen, a Democrat.

The race for AD-72 became one of the state’s most closely watched primaries earlier this year, after first-term Republican incumbent Assemblyman Tyler Diep of Westminster lost the backing of the Republican Party of Orange County over some votes he cast in Sacramento were deemed by party officials to be too union-friendly. That sentiment prompted fellow Republican Janet Nguyen to enter the race, and she easily overtook Diep to grab the Republican vote during the March 3 primary. On the other side of the political divide, Diedre Nguyen also handily defeated another Democratic challenger to advance to the Nov. 3 ballot.

All of his played out even as the once-safe GOP district continues to shift. But unlike most other parts of Orange County, the change in AD-72 shows Republicans picking up new voters. The GOP’s registration advantage in the district has grown to 2.3 points, giving Janet Nguyen a slight edge in a contest that pundits now say leans Republican.

But that’s not a lock. In 2016, voters in the district chose Hillary Clinton for president, not Donald Trump. And Democrats are pouring big money into the race in hopes of flipping the seat, a trend that has given Diedre Nguyen a financial advantage. She’s raised $1.8 million this cycle, with $1.3 million of that total from the California Democratic Party. Janet Nguyen has raised $1.2 million, including $326,202 from the California Republican Party.

Janet Nguyen, 43, of Fountain Valley has been the first woman and Vietnamese American to hold several local and state seats. She started on the Garden Grove City Council in 2004, won a county Supervisor seat in 2007 and became a State Senator in 2014.  In 2017, she was named legislator of the year by the Vietnam Veterans of America, but a year later was narrowly voted out of her SD-34 seat. She’s now a board member on the Orange County Foundation.

Janet Nguyen touts her record fighting for lower taxes, tuition freezes at public colleges and securing grant money for local schools. She supports the repeal of Assembly Bill 5, fewer regulations to address climate change, and making housing more affordable by reducing regulations for builders.

Democratic challenger Diedre Nguyen is a cancer scientist who holds a second degree black belt in the Korean martial art Hapkido. She was elected to Garden Grove City Council in 2016 and reelected by a larger margin in 2018. She’s also been active with community organizations and events, including serving as a board member for the Lunar New Year TET Parade/Festival.

If elected, Diedre Nguyen wants to take on healthcare costs, college tuition hikes and securing retirement savings.

The Register asked the two AD-72 candidates about key issues facing California.

Q: What is one thing California has done well and one thing that needs improvement in terms of its response to the coronavirus pandemic?

Janet Nguyen: Californians have done a good job protecting themselves by wearing masks and practicing social distancing, but our local economy has been devastated by the government shutdowns and our children are suffering from the school closures. We need to safely reopen.

Diedre Nguyen: As a scientist I was impressed that California state leadership treated COVID-19 as a serious, deadly threat from the beginning and jumped into action right away trying to procure PPE, etc. The coordination between the state and local governments needs to improve, and my city council experience in Garden Grove, helping to keep businesses and jobs afloat, will be important. The state has treated some businesses unfairly, like allowing hair salons to re-open, but not nail salons. That makes no sense.

Q: How would you help California balance its budget amid the economic hardships triggered by the pandemic with as few negative consequences for everyday residents as possible?

Janet Nguyen: No new taxes, period. We need to cut waste, fraud and abuse from the bloated state budget. We can start with the $100 billion high speed rail project.

Diedre Nguyen: Under a President Biden Administration I’m confident we can secure more funding for California’s budget and the shortfalls the pandemic has caused. Trump has played politics with an aggressive blue state-vs.-red state set of policies. An American president should be for all the people, as I will be in the State Assembly.

Q: Would you push for any changes to California law if federal rights to abortions and gay marriage are overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court?

Janet Nguyen: Before we talk about changing any state laws, we should wait until we have a specific decision and ruling details from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Diedre Nguyen: I will always defend reproductive healthcare rights and a woman’s right to control her own body. The same goes for marriage equality and the rights of LGBTQ+ people throughout California. I marvel at the thought that these are settled issues in our society, except for the most extreme elements, which amazingly control the Supreme Court through unfair and cowardly gamesmanship by Republicans.

Q: How would you help make California more affordable for low- and middle-income residents?

Janet Nguyen: California is a high tax, high fee state that discourages builders from meeting housing demand and discourages manufacturing jobs. We need to cut the red tape to streamline housing project permits and build manufacturing factories. We must lower taxes and make housing more affordable by being able to build more. We must freeze tuition hikes and allow students an opportunity for higher education without the burden of high tuition costs.

Diedre Nguyen: There are many policies that need changing to make life more affordable. In addition to a living wage, we need to make it easier to build more housing. Our stagnating housing supply is the number one reason housing is more and more unaffordable. Healthcare needs to be expanded to cover more people at a reasonable price, state colleges need to be made more affordable so that more people can attend and fewer leave with choking debt. We need universal preschool and affordable childcare so that parents can get relief.

Source: Orange County Register

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