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2018 election

Orange County pediatrician to challenge Rep. Ed Royce in 2018

Mai Khahn Tran None
Mai Khahn Tran

Pediatrician Mai Khanh Tran is entering the race to unseat Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) in California’s 39th Congressional District.

Tran, 51, of Fountain Valley, said she was inspired to run by Royce's support for Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“I am absolutely incensed over what’s been happening,” she said by phone. “He was very callous and he did not vote for the needs of his constituents.”

Royce and the other 13 Republicans in California’s congressional delegation voted for the House Republican healthcare plan to replace Obamacare, and Democrats are expected to use the vote as an issue throughout the 2018 campaign.

Born in Vietnam, Tran and her three siblings came to the U.S. as refugees in 1975. Her parents fled the country after the fall of Saigon and they were reunited in Oregon, where the family spent summers picking strawberries with other immigrant laborers, Tran said.

Tran said she studied psychology and social relations at Harvard University, working her way through school in part by doing janitorial work. She then graduated from the Brown-Dartmouth medical program. She is a part of a private practice in Orange County.

Tran’s Fountain Valley home is in Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s district, where several Democrats have already announced plans to run. Members of Congress don’t have to live in the district they represent and at least a half dozen California members do not.

Still, the National Republican Congressional Committee jumped on the fact quickly.

“While Tran was district-shopping around Orange County, finally settling on one she doesn’t even live in, Ed Royce has been doing what he’s always done — working hard to keep Southern California families safe,” NRCC spokesman Jack Pandol said in an email.

Tran said 25 years of practicing medicine in Orange County means she’s familiar with the district.

“I don’t see this as a real issue,” she said. “I truly think Ed Royce needs to be challenged. I am the best person to take this fight to Ed Royce.”

Tran joins Democrat Phil Janowicz, a former chemistry professor at Cal State Fullerton who now runs an education consulting firm, in the uphill race to unseat Royce, who has represented the area since 1992. Independent Julio Castaneda is also running.

Democrats are targeting the district — which includes voters in northern Orange County, Diamond Bar and Chino Hills — in part because Hillary Clinton earned 51.5% of the vote there in the 2016 presidential race, compared with President Trump's 42.9%.

But Royce was easily reelected with 57% of the vote, and he starts off with $2.8 million tucked away for his next campaign.

“I’ve overcome pretty incredible odds, so I feel that I have the heart and the steel to make this happen,” Tran said. 

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