This November, voters in Orange County’s 2nd Supervisor District will have a choice between two candidates: Santa Ana Mayor Vince Sarmiento and Garden Grove Councilmember Kim Bernice Nguyen.
While both are progressive Democrats with commonalities on a number of issues, a chasm has emerged between them on an issue critical to voters: crime and public safety.
Key law enforcement officials and organizations are coming down heavily in favor of Nguyen’s candidacy. The Garden Grove councilwoman’s campaign website has a long list of law enforcement endorsements:
- Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes
- Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriff’s (AOCDS)
- Anaheim Police Association
- Garden Grove Police Association
- Orange County Coalition of Police and Sheriff’s (OC COPS)
- City of Orange Police Association
- Santa Ana Police Officers Association
- Tustin Police Officers Association
The endorsement of the AOCDS is a key pick-up that has helped feed the momentum pick up by Nguyen’s underdog campaign.
The deputies union spent $139,077.34 in support of Nguyen during the primary, without formally endorsing her.
Sarmiento finished first in the June primary with 35% of the vote, followed by Nguyen with 22%.
Sarmiento’s campaign, on the other hand, lists no law enforcement endorsements for his supervisor campaign. The union representing his city’s rank-and-file police officers, the Santa Ana Police Officers Association, is supporting his opponent, Nguyen.
The stampede of law enforcement into Nguyen’s camp is partly attributable to her mainstream positions regarding public safety – but also stemming from the more hostile stance Sarmiento has adopted toward law enforcement since the George Floyd moment in mind-2020.
While running for Santa Ana mayor in 2020, Sarmiento aligned himself with a slate of young, left-wing candidates who identified with the defund-the-police movement – particularly now-Councilman Johnathan Hernandez.
In a February of this year, Sarmiento sent an e-mail to the Democratic Party of Orange County Central Committee members seeking their endorsement for his supervisor bid. In it, he listed several accomplishments of which he was “extremely proud: – including diverting funding from the police department anti-crime efforts:
“Shifted funds from the Police Department strike force to youth investment, crime prevention and improved training.”
At a council meeting Earlier this month, one of Sarmiento’s council allies, Councilman Johnathan Hernandez, declared September 28 to be an official city “Day to Remember Victims of Police Violence.” Sarmiento looked from the dais, while Councilman Phil Bacerra – who often crosses swords with Sarmiento and his allies over public safety issues – left the council chamber during Hernandez’ anti-law enforcement demonstration.
Sarmiento’s earns income from the law practice of his sister Vickie – whose bread-and-butter comes from suing police departments. Vickie Sarmiento is currently representing the family of Brandon Lopez in their wrongful death lawsuit against the Anaheim Police Department and the City of Santa Ana.
Sarmiento has the enthusiastic support of left-wing advocacy groups like Chispa and VietRise that are traditionally hostile to law enforcement and view police agencies as tools for oppressing minorities and “marginalized communities.”
In August of this year, Sarmiento signed a letter to three Orange County legislators demanding passage of AB 937, which would have prohibited the transfer of criminal illegal immigrants to the custody of federal immigration authorities. The letter claimed that “anti-Black and anti-Asian racism” is “directly rooted in our criminal justice and immigration systems.”
This spring, Tracy La, the executive director of VietRise, lashed out at Nguyen because the Garden Grove councilwoman supports putting undocumented migrants who are dangerous criminals into ICE custody.
In response to a question from the Voice of OC regarding the OC Sheriff’s Department transferring criminal illegal immigrants over to ICE custody, Nguyen responded:
“I would meet with Sheriff Barnes and ask for a review of all transfers to ICE to ensure compliance with SB 54. I would also ask questions during the Truth Act hearings if warranted. I support transfers of the most dangerous criminals who are a clear threat to public safety.”
Nguyen’s mainstream position earned her a bitter attack from La, whose organization elevates ideology over public safety. La and VietRise are strong supporters of Sarmiento.