Sen. Janet Nguyen has been the first woman and Vietnamese American to hold several Orange County and state seats, and now she is the highest-ranking Vietnamese American elected official currently serving in California’s government, according to her office.
When Nguyen first arrived in California from Vietnam, at just 5 years old, she spoke almost no English, she said. An immigrant from Saigon, she went to work at an early age, cleaning houses so she could have money for school supplies and clothes.
But soon she was leading in city government and then at the county and the state, and now, Nguyen is the newly-elected Senate Minority Caucus chair.
“I could never have dreamt of being in the Senate, and now my colleagues would choose me to lead the caucus,” Nguyen, 46, said. “It’s truly an honor, and I pledge to them and to Californians to use this decision to make sure we work together for a more affordable and safer state, so we all have the opportunity like my family did to achieve the American dream.”
The job of the Minority Caucus chair is to work in tandem with Minority Leader Brian Jones of San Diego to lead floor operations, run caucus meetings and put together the Republicans’ agenda. Nguyen said she is also tasked with working with her counterparts on the other side of the aisle.
“There’s a lot of courtesy working with the Democratic Caucus,” Nguyen said. “We want to make sure they know what we’re up to and make sure everyone knows what’s going on.”
While Nguyen was just elected in November to represent Orange County’s coastal 36th Senate District, it’s not her first time in the upper chamber of the legislature; Nguyen was elected to the Senate in 2014 for just one term, but at that time she was the nation’s first Vietnamese woman to serve in a state legislature.
Aside from the coastal communities, Nguyen’s current Senate district stretches inland to include Little Saigon and Cerritos in Los Angeles County.
Nguyen has also served in the Assembly, on the Orange County Board of Supervisors and as a Garden Grove councilmember, the youngest member elected to that position, according to her office.
Last year, Nguyen said her top priorities are reducing the cost of living — specifically through cutting the gas tax and reforming California’s regulatory rules — and addressing homelessness.
She describes her political philosophy as “conservative, compassionate and reflective” of those she represents in office.
In the Assembly, Stephanie Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who grew up in Sacramento’s Little Saigon, serves in Democratic leadership as the assistant speaker pro tempore.
Source: Orange County Register
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