Historic election underway in San Jose

March 3, 2009 11:51:36 AM PST
In San Jose Tuesday voters are deciding the fate of Councilwoman Madison Nguyen in a recall controversy that started over the naming of a shopping district. That controversy has escalated into other issues.

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Both sides say they are expecting a victory. Councilwoman Nguyen told ABC7 that if she remains serving her term through 2010 she will hold no bad feelings and no grudges. She said she plans to reach out to opposing constituents to patch things up.

But, if she is recalled the city will either have to either replace a councilmember or hold a special election for another one.

"Let's be realistic. This whole recall campaign has been brought forward because of the name 'Little Saigon.'" Nguyen said Tuesday.

Nguyen voted with confidence Tuesday not to recall her District 7 position.

This $500,000 special election stems from a conflict that kicked off publicly in late 2007, when Nguyen proposed naming a largely Vietnamese business area southeast of downtown San Jose, "Saigon Business District."

"I don't think it was necessary. I think she was doing a good job. Mostly, I feel it's the naming of the shopping center that brought all this about," said San Jose voter Abel Ramirez.

Many constituents claimed that for cultural and political reasons they wanted it called "Little Saigon." One voter who felt so strongly about the recall said she even prayed before casting her ballot.

But, recall backers insist this is not a single issue or a single ethnic campaign. Instead Nguyen is not honest, open or financially prudent.

"She voted to raise her salary by 20 percent despite the record budget deficit. She even attempted to lobby taxpayer funds," said Andre Charles, spokesman for the Recall Madison Nguyen campaign.

Nguyen believes recall backers are trying to find reasons to blast her work. She says the name issue has become akin to ethnically-dividing politics.

"I'm a councilmember who represents 96,000 people in a council district and I have to hold myself accountable to be able to represent everyone in the most fairest way that I can," Councilwoman Nguyen said Tuesday.

When it comes to allegations of financial prudence Madison Nguyen is not the only councilmember who voted for a salary increase last year. But, for whatever the reason this recall has really drawn out voters.

Nearly one-third of District 7's registered voters have already cast an absentee ballot.

The Santa Clara County Registrar of voters says it will have preliminary results shortly after the polls close at 8:00 Tuesday night.

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