Troy Edgar

Troy Edgar (May 23, 2012)

Five candidates are vying for the newly redrawn 72nd Assembly District.

Though it's hard to call a frontrunner in the crowded local race, Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar is raking in high-profile Republican support.

Edgar, who was a registered Democrat until 2006, has gotten endorsements from a long list of conservative politicians, including Huntington Beach Mayor Don Hansen and Councilmen Devin Dwyer and Matthew Harper, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), Sen. Tom Harman (R-Costa Mesa), Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach and Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Edgar, 45, who owns a construction company, is running against two Republicans and two Democrats.

He, along with Travis Allen, 38, who runs an investment company, and Long Pham, 61, a nuclear scientist for Southern California Edison and a member of the Orange County Board of Education, opposes tax hikes and is running on a platform of job creation and helping small businesses.

Democrat and Garden Grove Planning Commissioner Joe Dovinh, 43, who is also a business owner and general contractor, is the only candidate to have expressed support for Gov. Jerry Brown's temporary tax-hike proposal, which is on the November ballot.

"Nobody wants to be taxed," he said. "But if you're raising taxes for a specific purpose that will help education and public safety, then I support that. It's a bitter pill we sometimes have to take to get back on our feet."

Dovinh, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for the 68th Assembly District seat, was endorsed by the California Democratic Party.

The 72nd Assembly District, which covers parts of Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and Santa Ana, has a large Asian population. Both Pham and Dovinh, who are of Vietnamese descent, hope to capture the Asian vote.

Democrat Albert Ayala, an 88-year-old retired police commander, does not have a campaign website and could not be reached for comment.

Edgar, who served in the Navy, trumpets his more than 25 years experience in business consulting for various Fortune 500 companies and industries, including aerospace, technology, entertainment, government and financial services.

He said his experience as a small business owner, a job creator and a council member gives him a unique advantage over the other candidates.

"I feel there's a lot the state can do to help small businesses grow and become the engine for revenue," he said.

The state can help, he said, by getting out of the way.

Allen said he decided to run because he hopes to help fix Sacramento, which he believes is suffering from lack of leadership and a realization that throwing more money at the problem isn't going to solve anything.

"If we already have some of the highest taxes in the country, why would any more tax help solve the problem?" Allen said. "We've already driven 860,000 of the most productive citizens in California out."

Pham's views on taxes and jobs are similar to Edgar's and Allen's, but he emphasizes fixing the education system.

"We don't need to dump more money," he said. "We need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the current education system."

Pham said he owes his success to the opportunities this country gave him when he moved here from Vietnam at age 25. Not able to speak English, Pham said he hoped to earn money fixing bicycle tires on the side of the road.

He is now a nuclear engineer who once worked to establish the pressure certification program for all Air and Space Operation Centers following the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, he said.

"I owe this country a big favor for opening its arms to me and giving me a lot of opportunities that I could never get in any other country in the world," he said.

Traditionally, a candidate from each party would go head to head on election day, but this year's open primary, caused by redistricting, will allow the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, to move to the November ticket.

mona.shadia@latimes.com

Twitter: @MonaShadia