- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) — Orange County Republican leaders yesterday called for the withdrawal of a Republican congressional candidate who they think sent a letter threatening Hispanic immigrant voters with arrest.

The candidate, Tan D. Nguyen, told the Associated Press yesterday that he did not know about the letter and had fired a campaign staffer suspected of organizing the mailing.

County Republican Chairman Scott Baugh, however, said that after speaking with state investigators and the company that distributed the mailer, he thinks Mr. Nguyen had direct knowledge of the “obnoxious and reprehensible” letter.

Mr. Baugh told the AP that the party’s executive committee voted unanimously to urge Mr. Nguyen to drop out of the race against Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat.

“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,” Mr. Baugh said.

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.

Mr. Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant whose opposition to illegal immigration has figured heavily in his underdog campaign, was not available to react to the committee’s vote. A staffer at his campaign headquarters said he was meeting with investigators.

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 aliens.

Complaints about the letters this week prompted a probe by the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division in coordination with the state attorney general’s office.

Numerous political leaders, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, denounced the letter.

Mrs. Sanchez said yesterday that she had never spoken with Mr. Nguyen because her campaign didn’t see him as a threat to her re-election.

“If it is in fact this guy [who sent the letter], the most disgusting and saddest thing about it is that it comes from another immigrant,” said Mrs. Sanchez, who was born in the U.S. to Mexican parents. Her 1996 election signaled Orange County’s increasing diversification.

“These communities have spent years trying to get naturalized immigrants to vote.”

The owner of Huntington Beach-based Mailing Pros, Christopher West, said he did not know any laws were being broken when his company sent the mailer. “It was in Spanish, and I don’t read Spanish,” he said.

Mr. West said he gave investigators the name of the person who hired him, but declined to provide that name in an interview.

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