Republican Young Kim maintains a slim 2.6 percent lead over Democratic challenger Gil Cisneros in the race to replace retiring congressman Ed Royce. North Orange County’s share of the 39th congressional district is solidly red where Kim claims the bigger take of the midterm election’s votes. In Los Angeles County, Cisneros rides a smaller blue wave, one that helps him close a gap in the race his campaign says is still too close to call.
“We will let this process play out and will continue to closely monitor the results as they come in during the days ahead,” Cisneros says in a press release.
But far from a simple count of remaining ballots, the campaign is also alleging that “questionable tactics” may have helped suppress the vote in Latino precincts.
“I am also disturbed, however, by reports of potential voter intimidation and interference at polling locations in our district,” Cisneros says in a statement. “I vow to protect every vote and ensure that everyone who participated in this election has their voice heard.”
Without naming any “actors” involved, team Cisneros drew attention to La Habra Church of Christ. That’s where the campaign claims observers were kept away from the polls and voters were intimidated by security personnel. The press release even linked to an old “Poll Guard Pringle” story in pointing to the county’s sordid vote suppressing past.
On the surface level, the allegations don’t come close to what happened thirty years ago in 1988 when uniformed guards hired by Curt Pringle’s state assembly campaign greeted Latino voters in Santa Ana with bilingual signs reading “non-citizens can’t vote.” But every vote counts, especially in a close race.
Orrin Evans, a media consultant for Cisneros and his former campaign manager, provided more details over Twitter into what supposedly happened on election day. He accused La Habra Church of Christ minister Mike Murphy of being a poll worker who denied poll observers access. Evans claimed poll workers at the church asked observers for their party affiliation before keeping them away–all in violation of election code.
The Weekly reached out to Murphy, a La Habra PD chaplain, for comment and will update the story when one is provided.
Evans further complained that election attorneys called La Habra police to report voter intimidation at the church around 4:45 p.m., only to have nobody from the department respond to the scene several hours after. The photos he tweeted are the same the Cisneros campaign uploaded and linked to from their press release.
— orrinevans (@orrinevans) November 7, 2018
Aside from whatever happened (or didn’t) at La Habra Church of Christ, the Cisneros campaign also points to polling places in Latino precincts in the 39th District closing early on election day. They offered a sole photo of a “sorry, we’re closed” traffic sign in front of the polls at Hsi Lai Temple, one of the biggest Chinese Buddhist monasteries in the western hemisphere.
GuadaLaHabra and Hacienda Heights are both cities that have sizable Latino populations.
“Voter intimidation has no place in a fair and open democracy,” Nic Jordan, Cisneros’ current campaign manager, tells the Weekly. “However, every vote needs to be counted and the campaign will continue to wait for this process to play out before we consider pursuing legal action.”
The 39th congressional district is demographically diverse between Latino, white and Asians residents. If Kim holds on to her lead, she’ll become the first Korean-American elected to congress. If Cisneros pulls ahead, OC will have the most Latino congressional representation ever in its history.
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!