COSTA MESA — The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt a resolution recognizing June 19 as "the Day of Remembrance for Overseas Vietnamese Veterans of the Republic of South Vietnam."
Officials adopted the resolution after Mayor Allan Mansoor, who's running for Assembly against a Vietnamese American in a district that includes Little Saigon, introduced it and asked for support.
Mansoor chose Tuesday night — more than 35 years after the Fall of Saigon, two months after the official U.S. government day to honor them, and less than two months until the state Assembly election, in a heavily Vietnamese district — to recognize the anti-Communists who fought for South Vietnam.
"It's always great to recognize those who have fought for our freedom, especially those who have given their lives for our freedom," Mansoor said.
Mansoor, a Republican, is running against Phu Nguyen, a Democrat who has held leadership positions with multiple Vietnamese American community groups in Southern California. He has strong ties to organizations in Little Saigon, the Vietnamese enclave around Westminster and Garden Grove.
"I think it's flat-out pandering to the Vietnamese community," Nguyen said. "He knows he needs to get some Vietnamese votes away from me."
Nguyen attended the meeting and posed in a picture with Mansoor, the rest of the council and many of the Vietnamese Americans who filled the chambers.
"I know a lot of the people here and they are my supporters," Nguyen said. "On the other hand, we appreciate any city that wants to honor our servicemen and women, and showing up here is a form of appreciation."
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that about 3% of Costa Mesa residents identify as Vietnamese, compared with 34% in Westminster and 23% in Garden Grove. Political analysts say that the Vietnamese vote could sway this November's election for the 68th Assembly District, which stretches from Costa Mesa to Little Saigon.
Nguyen said he doesn't believe that the resolution will have any negative affects on his campaign.
"I knew these people all of my life," he said. "I grew up around them."
Joe Dovinh, who lost to Nguyen during the primary, said that although the resolution could help Mansoor, it has a higher purpose.
In another gesture, Mansoor introduced a resolution in June 2009 to recognize the South Vietnamese flag as the flag of the Vietnamese people overseas.
Mansoor introduced that resolution about two months after he declared his bid to run for the Assembly.
Tuesday's council report states that someone requested the day of remembrance, but it wasn't specific. That person was Nguyen Phuong Hung, a former Vietnamese Ranger and member of the Vietnamese Armed Forces Coalition, who said he wrote Mansoor a letter.
"The scars from the war, you never forget." Hung said. "They deserve the recognition."
Hung originally requested the recognition in May, but Mansoor was busy with his primary campaign, Hung said. After the July primary, Hung wrote another letter and now Mansoor has responded.
"I think the cause is fine and just, the question is what is the motive behind it," Councilwoman Katrina Foley said. "Voters are not stupid. When you do this kind of political grandstanding, they know."