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Vietnamese American leading race for Westminster mayor

November 7, 2012 | 12:26 am

Under the glow of Little Saigon street lamps, immigrants walking to an election night forum pointed to signs touting Tri Ta for mayor.

"He could win -- and more Vietnamese Americans may also win" a seat on the City Council here in Westminster and neighboring Garden Grove, said attorney Lan Quoc Nguyen, a board member for the Garden Grove school district. The crowd cheered, sipping tea and hearing his prediction, shortly before TV announcers declared President Obama winning a second term.

Locally, Ta, a six-year veteran of the Westminster council, said he felt relief and elation -- leading challenger Penny Loomer by more than 2,700 votes as the clock ticked toward midnight Tuesday. "I'm so happy and so grateful," he said, his voice lifting, after spending most of the night visiting with supporters.

Among his first stops: El Torito restaurant near Westminster Mall, where he thanked Margie Rice, longest-serving mayor in Westminster, who recruited him to replace her more than a year and a half ago.

"I'm very fortunate to be in this position," Ta said, having skipped dinner to continue making the rounds, paying his respects to Vietnamese community leaders. He also celebrated with non-Vietnamese residents who backed his campaign. "People have been kind to me, they have reached out to me -- just as I've tried to work with everyone. I've tried so hard to be in touch with everyone."

With nearly 50 of 57 precincts counted, Ta led with 8,152 votes to Loomer's 5,357. He expects absentee ballots -- a preferred method of voting for many Westminster immigrants -- to be completely counted in a week. "It will be hard to catch up to my total," he said. "I am ready to work."


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-- Anh Do