A retired immigration judge from Danville has thrown his hat into the ring as a Republican candidate for the congressional seat soon to be vacated by U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez).
The 71-year-old Phan, who moved with his family from Vietnam to the United States in the 1970s, served as a judge for the U.S. Executive Office of Immigration Review in San Francisco from 1995 until stepping down at the end of 2012.
"I retired with the intent specifically to run (for legislative office)," he said. "I realized there is another way, a broader way, that I wanted to have an impact and that is with policymaking."
Opportunity presented itself to Phan, and other congressional hopefuls, on Jan. 13 when Miller announced he planned to retire after his current term -- his 20th in the House of Representatives.
Miller, 68, has been one of the longest-serving Democrats in Congress. He won re-election handily in November 2012, defeating Republican Virginia Fuller 69.7 percent to 30.3 percent.
Miller's 11th Congressional District -- redrawn in 2012 -- consists of most of Contra Costa County, including Richmond to the west, Pittsburg to the east and the central-county communities such as Danville, Concord, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Orinda and Lafayette.
Thus far, Phan is the only Republican to officially announce his candidacy for the forthcoming House vacancy.
Democrat State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier -- whose senatorial district covers about 70 percent of the 11th Congressional District -- has received endorsements from more than six dozen local, state and federal officials to date in his bid to fill Miller's seat.
Phan admitted considering himself an "underdog, a dark horse" in the race for Congress, but added, "It's only in the United States that that opportunity can be open to anyone."
An attorney by trade in Vietnam, Phan and his family sought refuge in the U.S. in 1975 after the fall of Saigon. He said he began life in America in greater Washington, D.C., working a variety of jobs including dishwasher, shoe repairer, machine operator and French teacher.
The Phans relocated to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1979, and he graduated from Drake University Law School six years later.
He worked as a hearing officer, and later an administrative law judge, for the Iowa Department of Job Service before becoming an assistant attorney general in the Iowa Justice Department.
The family moved to California in 1988, and Phan spent the next five years as a trial attorney with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. He then served almost two years as an administrative law judge with the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board before being appointed as an immigration judge in March 1995.
Phan and his wife have four adult sons and eight grandchildren. The couple have lived in Danville since 1995.
Phan said he plans for his name to appear on the ballot as Tue Q. Phan, although he was formally referred to as Tue Phan-Quang and Phan Quang Tue at times during his legal career.
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