by Ramona Giwargis and Carly Wipf
October 14, 2020
A recent campaign mailer from San Jose Councilor Lan Diep urges voters to support Joe Biden and themselves – a “fellow Democrat”. However, records show that Diep only joined the party seven months ago. Before that, he had no party preference and was a registered Republican for seven years.
Facing a tough re-election campaign next month, Diep joined Democrat just nine days after finishing second in the March primary, and was more than 3 percentage points behind longtime Democrat David Cohen.
Diep was once one of three Republicans on San Jose City Council, along with councilors Dev Davis and Johnny Khamis. While his two colleagues publicly left the party in June 2018 and quoted Donald Trump’s divisive immigration policy, Diep remained a mother. He remained a Republican from August 2012 to March 2019, until March 18, 2019, when he silently switched to “no party preference” for one year, according to the county election bureau.
He moved to Democrat on March 12 of this year.
Although the San Jose elections are impartial, local Democrats say the timing is suspect.
On October 1, the Santa Clara County Democratic Party passed a resolution calling Diep a “fake Democrat”.
Bill James, who has been chairman of the party for nearly four years, said Diep had never attended any of the organization’s meetings, which made his mailer and the party’s sudden change “insincere”.
“He spent years on the council trying to get Republican votes while David Cohen, his opponent in that race, spent those years building and strengthening the Democratic Party, and yet Lan Diep sends mailers to the people of the district and asks her to support him as a ‘fellow Democrat’, “said James. “I don’t know which Democrat he’s a companion with, but we’ve never seen him. He never shows up and we haven’t heard from him or seen any real consistency with democratic values.”
James said Diep had a pattern of great developers and opposition to rent control – Republican values, James said.
Diep told San Jose Spotlight he stood by his new party affiliation and cited his work in 2012 on Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Nevada – a swing state. He said his efforts helped maintain progressive policies like the Affordable Care Act.
He added that the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee “should waste less time debating what a good Democrat is and just be one instead”.
“Local party bosses cannot decide the litmus test as Democrats,” said Diep. “Especially not if you use local, impartial offices as a measuring stick. Let them spend their time sitting in the judgment of others. I will focus my energy on doing what’s right for the people of San Jose.”
Not only could Diep’s mailer anger local Democrats, it could also be questionable about federal campaign funding laws.
The mailer features a photo of Diep shaking hands with Biden, with large text asking voters to vote for the president’s hope. It is said that Biden was not in favor of Diep, but Diep is “quite sure he is in favor of Vice President Joe Biden.”
“And to give our next president the local allies he needs to help America rebuild, elect his fellow Democrat – Councilor Lan Diep – back to San Jose City Council,” the mailer continues. On the back of the mailer is a quote from Obama promoting Diep’s work on his campaign.
The question, according to federal election commission officials, is how Diep paid for the mailer supporting a federal candidate like Biden. FEC regulations state that any “public announcement” referring to or promoting a federal candidate must be paid for use of government-approved funds – that is, no union or corporate funds.
Funds permitted nationwide are those that comply with the limits, bans and reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.
Diep’s latest campaign report shows support from prominent developers like Trammell Crow Company and Urban Community, as well as people who work for tech companies like Adobe, Facebook and Cisco.
Myles Martin, a spokesman for the FEC, told San Jose Spotlight that he had no comment on specific mailers or potential cases.
“If someone believes there is a violation of the law, they can file a complaint with the FEC,” Martin said.
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