SD34: Villa Park’s Tom Umberg to Challenge Janet Nguyen

[Cross-posted from our partner site]

Former Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Villa Park) announced his entry into the race to challenge the re-election bid of Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) in the 34th District.  Unfortunately for Umberg, in a case of unlucky timing, the news of his entry was completely drowned out by the news that Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) had introduced a resolution to expel Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia/Buena Park) due to allegations of sexual misconduct against Mendoza.

Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 23% in the 34th Senate District, and Umberg is already trying to make Trump an issue in the State Senate election by declaring in the second sentence of his announcement: “I am running for State Senate because I believe that our community needs a strong fighter in Sacramento who will stand up to President Trump and his Administration on important issues like health care, immigration, energy, the environment, civil rights, education, and consumer issues.”

Congressman Lou Correa led a list of Umberg’s endorsements by various Democratic elected officials.  Correa was Nguyen’s predecessor in the 34th Senate District seat.  There is no word on if former Councilwoman Gerrie Shipske (D-Long Beach) will continue her bid for the seat or drop out in favor of Umberg.

Umberg’s biography is formidable as a former State Assemblyman, former federal prosecutor, retired Army Colonel, and former Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (under Bill Clinton), and former Co-Chair of the U.S. State Department’s Public Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan (under Barack Obama).

Democrats currently hold a 9% registration advantage over Republicans in the two-county 34th Senate District.  When then-Supervisor Nguyen defeated former Assemblyman Jose Solorio for the seat by 16% in 2014, Democrats held a 5% registration advantage over Republicans.  Additionally, midterm elections have historically resulted strengthened voter turnout for the party opposing the President’s party.  In 2014, with Democrat Barack Obama in office, that produced a bump in voter turnout for Republicans.  In 2018, with Republican Donald Trump in office, that should produce a bump in voter turnout for Democrats.

However, Nguyen is a tough and tireless campaigner, and it is often said in political circles: “Nobody outworks Janet Nguyen.”  Umberg is a daunting opponent, but Nguyen has beaten him before (2007 Supervisorial election, though that seat had dead even political registration with 32.1% of voters registered in each party) and has repeatedly beaten formidable opponents election after election, often as the underdog.  There is no doubt that Umberg will provide a tough challenge, but Nguyen’s experience with arduous campaigns will likely give her a close win in November.

Umberg’s long biography also includes a long record.  The Nguyen campaign likely still has its opposition research file from their 2007 battle with Umberg, who has a voting record of three terms in the State Assembly.  Of course, Umberg is surely assembling a new opposition research file from Nguyen’s 7 years on the Board of Supervisors and 4 years in the State Senate.

Umberg has lost 4 of his last 5 campaigns for office over the last quarter of a century: a 1994 bid for State Attorney General when he lost to incumbent Republican Dan Lungren by 14%, a 2002 bid for the Democratic nomination for Insurance Commissioner when he lost to John Garamendi by 10%, a 2006 bid for the Democratic nomination for 34th Senate District when he lost to Correa by 19%, and a 2007 bid for the 1st Supervisorial District when he came in third by 3% in the legendary Nguyen-Nguyen special election in which Councilwoman Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) defeated School Board Member Trung Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) by the slimmest of margins (Trung Nguyen led by 7 votes after the Registrar’s initial count, Janet Nguyen led by 7 votes after the Registrar’s recount and then by 3 votes after litigation was completed).

Umberg’s sole win in the last 25 years was his 2004 bid for State Assembly, winning by 30% over then-hapless, later controversial Otto Bade.

As of February 5, Umberg was still registered to vote at his home in Villa Park in the district of Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).

Here’s an excerpt of an Orange County Register story on accusations of Umberg’s carpetbagging from January 2007:

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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