COSTA MESA — Mayor Allan Mansoor has been trying to appeal to the Vietnamese American community, a key voting bloc in his bid for the 68th Assembly District.
Toward that goal he's enlisted the support of a Little Saigon political insider, Daisy Tong, who he hired as his assistant.
Tong worked as a field representative for Assemblyman Van Tran (R-Westminster) during Tran's first term, and now Mansoor is running for Tran's old seat. Tran is termed out of the Assembly and is running for Congress.
Both Tran and Mansoor are Republicans.
Tong is operations manager for Visteva, a company that builds campaign websites, and president of Saigon West, a Vietnamese marketing and communications firm that bridges "the gap to new opportunities," according to its website.
Tong and her husband, Chad Morgan, run both companies, which share an address in Garden Grove.
"She represented me on Asian issues and dealt with the Asian community and kept me updated on what's going on," Tran said. "She's very politically active."
Mansoor is running against Phu Nguyen, a Democrat and Vietnamese American who owns a business that arranges wire transfers to Vietnam. Vietnamese Americans in Orange County generally lean Republican, but political analysts say that the Vietnamese vote could go either way, given that Mansoor is running against a Little Saigon businessman.
Tong is described on Saigon West's website as someone who has held leadership roles in local campaigns and nonprofits within the Vietnamese community for more than 10 years. She helps Mansoor with campaign activities, such as scheduling, she said, adding that her title — assistant — does not matter.
"What I do is help him if anybody has difficulties communicating with Allan in the Vietnamese community," Tong said. "I wouldn't say I advise him on anything — he has his own mind."
Mansoor did not return calls seeking comment on Tong's pay or title.
Tong declined to discuss her compensation..
"I'm doing this because I believe in Allan," Tong said. "The only motivation I have is Allan is a good candidate, he's a good guy and he's a good guy for the 68th Assembly District. That's all that matters."
According to campaign records, Mansoor paid $31,627.74 to Saigon West and Visteva for campaign literature and mailings.
Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Jim Righeimer, who is running for the City Council, serves as an advisory board member for Visteva, according to the website.
Righeimer said via e-mail his friend began Visteva and asked him for business advice, though he said that he is unaware of his membership on the firm's advisory board.
Tong accompanies Mansoor on many of his public outings. She was at an Aug. 17 Costa Mesa City Council meeting when Mansoor asked his fellow council members to pass a resolution officially recognizing June 19 as the Day of Remembrance for Overseas Veterans of the Republic of South Vietnam. The resolution passed unanimously.
Tong, who was born in Vietnam, said that recognizing the sacrifice of the South Vietnamese forces who risked their lives alongside the American troops is significant for her. Her parents served with the South Vietnamese military and her mother was thrown in prison while pregnant with her sister.
Some area bloggers, as well as the Daily Pilot editorial page, criticized the resolution, calling it election-year pandering.
Tong said she forwarded the message to Mansoor on behalf of a group of people who want to see all cities recognize that day on June 19.
"They know that I help Allan out with his campaign, so they sent me an e-mail and wanted to have me touch base with Allan because they want to put that forward, so I just passed on the message," she said.
Nguyen Phuong Hung, a former Vietnamese ranger and member of the Vietnamese Armed Forces Coalition, has said he wrote Mansoor a letter regarding the resolution.
Tong was at the last City Council meeting when the council and the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority voted on the 55-year lease agreement with Facilities Management West, the private company that will operate the fairgrounds and finance the $96-million purchase.
Tong also accompanied Mansoor during the sixth annual Halecrest and Hall of Fame Community Assn. Chili Cook-Off, where he entered a chili and competed against Nguyen. She was also present with Mansoor during the Costa Mesa Pop Warner Opening Day VIP Gala on Aug. 21 at Estancia High School's Jim Scott Stadium.
Tong said she met Mansoor through a mutual friend and began helping him since he announced his candidacy. She grew up and lives with her husband and children in Garden Grove. They also own a home in Corona, she said.