Madison Phuong Nguyen is an American politician from California.[1][2] She served on the San Jose, California, City Council from 2005 to 2014, representing District 7, and she additionally served as Vice Mayor from 2011 to 2014. She was the first Vietnamese American elected to the city council.[3] Currently, Madison is the Executive Vice President(EVP) of The Silicon Valley Organization, formerly the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. As EVP, she is responsible for driving the organization’s public policy, advocacy, political action, economic and community development strategies and implementation.

Early lifeEdit

Madison Nguyen was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam.[4][5] Madison and her family escaped Vietnam on a small fishing boat when she was four years old. Her family then settled in various refugee camps in the Philippines until a Lutheran church sponsored them to Scottsdale, Arizona. Her father worked as a janitor, receiving a stipend of only $500 a month to support his wife and children. Eventually, he moved his family to Modesto, California, in search of employment for his family in the Central Valley. Madison worked in the fields alongside her parents as a teenager.[1] She is one of nine siblings.[5]

Madison received her Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She received a master's degree from the University of Chicago. She returned to California in 2000 to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology at UC Santa Cruz.

Political careerEdit

School boardEdit

Nguyen began to become more involved in politics in 2001, while working as a sociology instructor at De Anza College;[5] inspired by MTV's "Rock the Vote" campaign, she and members of the Vietnamese community organized a voter drive in which nearly 5,000 new voters registered to vote for the first time.[1][6] She followed that up with a run for a position on the Franklin-McKinley School District Board of Education, hoping that her election would encourage Vietnamese Americans to get more involved in local politics.[7] Her win made her one of the first two school board officials of Vietnamese descent in the United States. The other, elected around the same time, was Lan Nguyen of Garden Grove, a city in southern California's Orange County.[8] However, it was Nguyen's organization of protests in support of Bich Cau Thi Tran, a Vietnamese woman shot to death by a San Jose police officer that brought her to the forefront of people's minds in the Vietnamese American community. Nguyen, who felt the incident was being ignored by the public and the media, organized a rally to which nearly 300 people showed up.[2]

City CouncilEdit

In September 2005, she ran for city council in a special election to replace Terry Gregory in District 7.[3] Vietnamese Americans, who formed less than 10% of San Jose's population at the time, turned out in record numbers during the primary election in June to support Madison Nguyen and Linda Nguyen, pushing them ahead of seven other candidates.[9] Madison Nguyen won 44% of the primary vote, while Linda Nguyen, a real estate attorney, received 27%.[10] In the run-off, Madison Nguyen received 62% of the votes cast, beating out Linda Nguyen to become the first Vietnamese American to serve on the San Jose's City Council.[3]e

District naming controversy and recall attemptEdit

Nguyen's support from the Vietnamese American community suffered a sharp reversal in early January 2008, in a controversy over whether an area of a Story Road in her council district with a large percentage of Vietnamese retailers should be named as "Little Saigon" or "Saigon Business District". Little Saigon is a common name used for various other Vietnamese-American commercial enclaves, particularly known in Orange County, California. Nguyen suggested the name "Saigon Business District" after she heard from different groups in her council district who wanted the word "New" to be included in the name, indicating a new life in America after they left their homeland.[11] Supporters of the Little Saigon denounced Nguyen as a traitor to the community because she did not support what they deemed as the "majority" of the Vietnamese community supported, which was "Little Saigon." Mayor Chuck Reed stated that supporters of the Little Saigon name "are the most vocal, but may not be the majority"; fellow council member Judy Chirco went farther in her criticisms, complaining after the January 8 meeting and vote on the issue that "I have heard more disrespect tonight than I ever thought I would hear from the Vietnamese community". Both refused to retract their statements when pressed.[12]

Backlash against Nguyen continued to grow throughout January. She was not invited to attend the annual Tết parade, organized by her political opponent Linda Nguyen.[13] Activist Ly Tong even started a hunger strike out of anger at the "Saigon Business District" name, which lasted for 28 days.[14][15] However, support for the "Little Saigon" name was not unanimous. On February 12, 2008, hundreds of local Vietnamese American residents, prominent businesspeople and anti-communists among them, also issued a statement emphasizing that the "Little Saigon" supporters did not represent them. That same day, Nguyen and Reed proposed putting the issue to a public referendum, in an effort to mollify critics. However, this proposal was withdrawn ten days later due to the estimated cost of $2.7 million and the fear that the vote would prove even more divisive to the community.[16][17]

On March 4, 2008, the city council voted to rescind the "Saigon Business District" name, but stopped short of renaming it "Little Saigon". Instead, they proposed setting up a process by which business owners could choose district names.[18] However, anger against Nguyen remained. On April 22, 2008, the issue was reopened with the submission of recall papers against Nguyen by the Recall Madison Nguyen committee.[19] On October 9, the petition qualified for the March 3, 2009 ballot, having garnered more than 150% of the needed valid signatures.[20] On March 3, 2009, voters rejected the recall attempt with a 55-45% vote. A year later, Nguyen won re-election and in 2011, she was nominated by Mayor Chuck Reed and was approved unanimously by the city council to be Vice Mayor. She is also the first Vietnamese Vice Mayor in the history of San Jose.[21]

2014 mayoral campaignEdit

Nguyen announced in 2014 that she was a candidate for mayor.[22] She came in third in the June 2014 primary election to select the top two candidates for the November general election, with 20.26% of the vote, thereby ending her campaign.[23]

2016 State Assembly campaignEdit

In April 2015, Madison Nguyen announced her intention to run for California State Assembly District 27,[24] an open seat being vacated by term-limited Nora Campos.[25][circular reference] The Primary election was in June 2016, followed by a November general election, which coincided with the next presidential contest. Nguyen began rolling out her campaign platform soon after her announcement. Her first significant proposal was to support a new University of California campus, and to locate it in San Jose.[26] Her first notable endorsement came from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.[27] Other declared candidates included San Jose City Councilmember Ash Kalra,[28] Santa Clara County Board of Education Trustee Darcie Green,[29] activist Cong Do, and Republican Van Le.

Madison won a decisive victory in the primary, with more than 11,000 more votes than her closest competitor.

2016 California State Assembly candidacyEdit

California's 27th State Assembly district election, 2016
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Madison Nguyen 27,453 34.3
Democratic Ash Kalra 15,843 19.8
Republican Van Le 11,726 14.7
Democratic Andres Quintero 10,922 13.7
Democratic Cong Thanh Do 4,869 6.1
Democratic Darcie Green 4,769 6.0
Democratic Esau Herrera 4,342 5.4
Total votes 79,924 100.0
General election
Democratic Ash Kalra 69,934 53.2
Democratic Madison Nguyen 61,436 46.8
Total votes 131,370 100.0
Democratic hold


  1. ^ a b c Molina, Joshua (2008-01-14), "The rise, troubles of San Jose Councilwoman Madison Nguyen", San Jose Mercury News, retrieved 2008-02-28
  2. ^ a b Gottlieb, Allie (2003-08-28), "Madison Nguyen: The Visible Woman", Metro Active, Silicon Valley, retrieved 2008-02-28
  3. ^ a b c Fulbright, Leslie (2005-09-15), "Council win is first for a Viet American", San Francisco Chronicle, retrieved 2008-02-28
  4. ^ Huệ Bình (July 16, 2011). "Nữ phó thị trưởng gốc Việt 36 tuổi" [A 36-year-old vice mayor of Vietnamese descent]. Người Lao động (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh City Federation of Labour. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Biography of Madison Nguyen, Madison Nguyen, City of San José Councilmember, official website, 2009, archived from the original on April 15, 2009, retrieved 2009-06-25
  6. ^ Alicia Gaura, Maria (2003-09-30), "The Vietnamese Recall reveals newfound independence", The San Francisco Chronicle, retrieved 2008-02-28
  7. ^ Kang, Cecilia (2002-11-01), "Asians promote political power", San Jose Mercury News, retrieved 2008-02-28
  8. ^ Yi, Daniel (2002-11-29), "Beating the Odds in Garden Grove Race", San Jose Mercury News, retrieved 2008-02-28
  9. ^ "Nguyen Vs. Nguyen; Race to become San Jose's first Vietnamese-American councilmember ends", The Sacramento Union, 2005-09-14, archived from the original on September 26, 2007, retrieved 2008-02-28
  10. ^ "Madison Nguyen Wins San Jose City Council Seat", KTVU News, 2005-09-13, archived from the original on 2008-03-11, retrieved 2008-02-28
  11. ^ "Amid Protest, SJ Approves 'Saigon Business Dist.'". CBS 5. 2007-11-21. Archived from the original on February 23, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
  12. ^ Molina, Joshua (2008-01-09), "An ultimatum for Madison Nguyen; Quit or be forced out, big Vietnamese crowd warns councilwoman", San Jose Mercury News, retrieved 2008-02-28
  13. ^ Molina, Joshua (2008-02-05), "'Little Saigon' controversy: Politics in, Tet parade out", San Jose Mercury News, retrieved 2008-02-28
  14. ^ May, Patrick (2008-02-20), "'Little Saigon' hunger striker: 'I'll continue until I die'", San Jose Mercury News, retrieved 2008-02-28
  15. ^ "Councilmen Help End 'Little Saigon' Hunger Strike", KTVU News, 2008-03-13, archived from the original on 2008-06-23, retrieved 2010-10-01
  16. ^ Woolfolk, John (2008-02-22), "Plans to put 'Little Saigon' to citywide vote in San Jose appear dead", San Jose Mercury News, retrieved 2008-02-28
  17. ^ Molina, Joshua (2008-03-02), "'Little Saigon' protest draws 2,500 in advance of Tuesday's vote", San Jose Mercury-News, retrieved 2008-03-08
  18. ^ "California: No 'Saigon Business District'", The New York Times, 2008-03-06, retrieved 2008-03-08
  19. ^ Molina, Joshua (2008-04-23), "Activists begin attempt to recall San Jose Councilwoman Madison Nguyen", San Jose Mercury News, retrieved 2008-04-30
  20. ^ Joshua Molina (2008-10-09). "Recall of San Jose Councilwoman Nguyen qualifies for ballot". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  21. ^ Associated Press (2009-03-03). "San Jose council member fends off recall". Google News. Retrieved 2009-03-04.
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2004-02-23. Retrieved 2005-10-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ Nora Campos
  26. ^ [2]
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-10-02. Retrieved 2015-07-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ [3]
  29. ^ [4]

External linksEdit