After a small number of complaints over the factory’s alleged smell, the city of Irwindale recently voted to declare Huy Fong Foods, makers of the popular sriracha condiment, a public nuisance.
For state Republicans, that’s an election-year gift. GOP candidates and organizations are going public in support of David Tran, Huy Fong’s proprietor. Tran now counts among his champions GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari and the Republican Party of Los Angeles County.
The RPLAC has released a statement urging the Irwindale City Council “to take such actions as necessary to keep Huy Fong Foods in Los Angeles County,” praising Huy Fong’s growth, job creation and local economic dynamism.
Further afield, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz also has voiced his support for sriracha, although his solution to the company’s woes is to propose that Huy Fong relocates to his own state. Cruz’s comments follow the bold overtures of Texas Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas.
As yet, Tran has been cordial but coy in his response to the enthusiastic Texans. That has likely persuaded California Republicans that Tran isn’t headed for the exits. But their strong incentive is to help strengthen Tran’s disposition to stay.
California Republicans have struggled for years to boost support among ethnic minorities. Fears of further losses have been stoked by the recent remarks of Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, likening California’s immigration ordeal to a war.
Donnelly currently is leading Kashkari in the June primary contest for governor. The new Top Two system almost certainly will give Gov. Jerry Brown the top spot, with Donnelly currently leading Kashkari for the second spot for the November runoff.
At the same time, moderate and liberal Republicans find value in shifting attention away from their corporate and financial affiliations. Those ties turn off many voters, including some conservatives, who are still troubled by the economic and political impact of the economic crisis and government bailouts.
One way to do that is by emphasizing minority outreach. There, the challenge is to target potential voters who aren’t already caught up in thorny issues like immigration that don’t play well to the state’s divided GOP.
One such group, Asian Americans, currently votes reliably for Democrats. Numbering more than 16 million nationwide, the group makes up at least 4 percent of the national electorate – and in 2012 gave Barack Obama a bigger margin than he won among Latinos, as Politico reported.
Statistics like these have frustrated Republican analysts. Party leaders are well aware that the group tends to align with Republican voters on cultural issues such as the importance of traditional family and the role education and enterprise play in upward mobility.
A Pew study from 2012 found that Asian Americans are better educated, wealthier and more focused on work and familial ties than Americans as a whole. But it also found the group relatively more satisfied with the country’s direction.
Given Tran’s plight as a Vietnamese-born entrepreneur, his background and predicament make for a perfect cause for Republicans.
That’s especially true of more “establishmentarian” party members. The identity politics challenges surrounding minority outreach help explain Kashkari’s sudden enthusiasm for the “stand with sriracha” campaign.
Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs whiz who went on to mastermind the controversial Troubled Assets Relief Program bailouts in 2008, took to Twitter last week to urge support for Huy Fong. Tran’s legal and regulatory struggles help Kashkari cast his campaign, as he put it, as a fight against “regulations killing jobs.” That takes the spotlight off of his personal political history as a member of the East Coast corporate and federal elite.
The Irwindale City Council is set this week to adopt a resolution formalizing the nuisance declaration. As the pressure on Huy Fong Foods increases, Republicans are poised to ratchet up their own rhetoric as well.
Public support for Huy Fong likely will work to the GOP’s advantage. “Sriracha is more than a hot sauce,” Frank C. Giradot wrote in the Pasadena Star-News. “Sriracha equals the American Dream.”
(James Poulos is a contributor to CalWatchdog. Originally published on CalWatchdog.)