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Nguyen, GOP candidate for secretary of state, acknowledges party’s image problem

Dennis Nguyen, who immigrated from Vietnam in 1975, announces his candidacy.

Dennis Nguyen holding his daughter Nadine during Sunday's press conference.
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday

At a meeting of the Republican Party’s State Central Committee last month, party leadership pledged more aggressive outreach to the state’s minority population.

There was tangible proof of that outreach Sunday as Republican businessman Dennis Nguyen, 43, announced his candidacy for the secretary of state, becoming the first Asian-American to run for statewide office in Minnesota.  

Nguyen owns two Minneapolis financial services firms.  Last year, he was part of Gov. Mark Dayton’s trade mission to China.  With his parents, he immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in 1975.

Nguyen acknowledged the party’s image problems before a diverse group of supporters, including former speaker of the House Steve Sviggum, state Sen. Dave Senjem and political consultant Peter Hong.

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“The America of 2013 is not the America of 1953,” Nguyen said. “ Whether this perception is true or not, too many people today…believe that the Republican party does not represent them or their ideals. I am here to say today that perception is a misconception.”

Nguyen said he supports online voter registration, started by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and the subject of a Republican lawsuit.  But, he said, the website  implementation is problematic.  “I’m for any tool that increases voter participation, [but] I think the current secretary of state should have gone through the legislative process. I would go through the process,” he said.

Nguyen is the first Republican to announce as candidate in next year’s election for secretary of state,  an open office in 2014 with the retirement of Ritchie.

Nguyen may not remain the only Republican in the race.  Former secretary of state and current state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer is considering a candidacy.

On the DFL side, Reps. Debra Hilstrom and Steve Simon have announced their candidacies.