Saturday, October 21, 2006

Calif. candidate's office raided over voter letter sent to Latinos saying it was illegal for immigrants to vote.

Calif. candidate's office raided over voter letter

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Police on Friday raided the office and home of a Republican congressional candidate after an uproar over a letter sent to Latinos saying it was illegal for immigrants to vote.

Candidate Tan Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American who has campaigned against illegal immigration, canceled a news conference amid pressure from Republicans to withdraw from the November 7 race.

The letter, written in Spanish and mailed to 14,000 newly registered voters, put conservative Orange County back on the map as a battleground in the national debate over the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.

Nguyen, who fled Vietnam in a boat when he was 8, is seeking to unseat Orange County's only Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Loretta Sanchez. He has denied knowledge of the letter and fired an aide he said was responsible for it.

Illegal immigrants are not allowed to vote, but immigrants who become U.S. citizens may do so. Under California law, voter intimidation is a crime.

California state police on Friday arrived at Nguyen's campaign office with a search warrant shortly before the scheduled news conference. His home was also searched.

"They are looking for items. He is not going to come to the press conference unfortunately because of the intervention of law enforcement," Nguyen's lawyer David Wiechert told reporters.

"I have not talked to him about the ramification of today's events," Wiechert said.

Scott Baugh, chairman of the Republican Party in Orange County, has urged Nguyen to "do the honorable thing" and withdraw from the race. Baugh said he had information that Nguyen was involved in the letter.

Sanchez, who is favored to win in November, has condemned the Spanish-language letter as an attempt to intimidate legitimate voters.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, called the letter a "despicable act of political intimidation."

Orange County, south of Los Angeles, is home to the Minuteman Project border patrol group and spawned a 1994 California ballot measure seeking to curb public services to undocumented workers.