California Republican seeks recount after losing Senate seat

FILE - In this March 9, 2015 file photo state Sen. Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. Nguyen, who narrowly lost her re-election bid to Democrat Tom Umberg, is requesting a partial recount of ballots in Orange County, it was announced Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California state senator who narrowly lost her re-election bid is requesting a partial recount of ballots in Orange County, the county's elections chief, Neal Kelley, announced Thursday.

Former Republican Sen. Janet Nguyen requested the recount on Tuesday, a day after Democrat Tom Umberg was sworn in to replace her.

A voter in Senate District 34, on behalf of Nguyen, originally requested a complete recount of votes in Orange County, which comprises the vast majority of the district. Kelley said the request was later scaled back to 12 precincts in Santa Ana.

Nguyen lost the district by about 3,100 votes out of 267,000 cast. She did not respond to a request for comment. California Republican Party spokesman Matt Fleming said the party wasn't involved in the request.

Overcoming such a large deficit — more than 1 percentage point — would be extremely unlikely absent a systemic breakdown in the vote count, said political data expert Paul Mitchell. Nguyen and her staff may be sampling a few precincts where they feel they should've performed better to see if it's worth pursuing a wider recount, he said.

The precincts she's targeting all voted overwhelmingly for Umberg. Nguyen won Orange County as a whole by two votes, while Umberg won by more than 3,000 in the small portion of the district that's in Los Angeles County.

Under California law, any voter can request a recount but must pay the cost ahead of time. The requested recount will cost about $10,000, Kelley said. A full countywide count would be at least $400,000.

Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to the California Legislature, represented a portion of Orange County known as Little Saigon, home to the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam. She was born in Saigon and fled with her family on a small wooden boat, according to her legislative biography. After passing through a series of refugee camps, her family arrived in California in 1981.

She earned national attention nearly two years ago when she was removed from the Senate floor for refusing to stop delivering a speech that was critical of Tom Hayden, a former state senator who played a prominent role in the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s.

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