GOP Calls for Withdrawal of Candidate

The Associated Press
Thursday, October 19, 2006; 9:54 PM

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. -- Orange County Republican leaders on Thursday called for the withdrawal of a GOP congressional candidate they believe sent a letter threatening Hispanic immigrant voters with arrest.

Tan D. Nguyen denied knowing anything about the letter in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press but said he fired a campaign staffer who may have been responsible for it. Nguyen's attorney said his client had no intention of quitting.

County Republican Chairman Scott Baugh said that after speaking with state investigators and the company that distributed the mailer, he believes Nguyen had direct knowledge of the "obnoxious and reprehensible" letter. He told the AP that the party's executive committee voted unanimously to urge Nguyen to drop out of the race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

"I learned information that allows me to draw the conclusion that not only was Mr. Nguyen's campaign involved in this, but that Mr. Nguyen was personally involved in expediting the mailer," Baugh said in a telephone interview.

State and federal officials were investigating the letter, which was written in Spanish and mailed to an estimated 14,000 Democratic voters in central Orange County. It warns, "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

Immigrants who are adult naturalized citizens are eligible to vote.

Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant whose opposition to illegal immigration has figured heavily in his underdog campaign, was not immediately available to react to the committee's vote. His attorney, David Wiechert, said Thursday night that his client does not plan to quit.

"Mr. Nguyen has no intention of dropping out of the race. He would do the public a disservice if he dropped out," Wiechert said.

The attorney said he and Nguyen met with investigators for two hours Thursday. He described the meeting as "pleasant and professional" but declined to elaborate.

Nguyen said he has fired an employee in his office who he believes might have used his campaign's voter data base to send the letter without his knowledge.

"I will do whatever I can do to encourage all citizens in this district to vote," he said.

Orange County is an immigration battleground. One founder of the Minuteman civilian border patrol group ran for Congress here, and cities have debated issues such as the value of public centers for day laborers and the use of local police to arrest illegal immigrants.

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