Hot-Button Issue: Calif. Republicans rally behind Sriracha in fight against city

Sriracha chili sauce is produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif.

Sriracha chili sauce is produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif.  (AP)

California Republicans are bringing the heat to a fight over Sriracha's hot sauce factory, rallying behind manufacturer Huy Fong as officials in a Los Angeles suburb crack down on the company. 

Earlier this month, the city of Irwindale voted to tentatively designate the factory that produces Sriracha a public nuisance because of a series of complaints from residents. The residents said the smell from the chilies was causing them to have sore throats, headaches and itchy eyes. The city council is expected to formally vote on a resolution declaring the factory a public nuisance at a meeting Wednesday, after which the company would have 90 days to fix the odor.

If the issue is not addressed to the city's liking, officials said they reserve the right to enter the factory, fix the problem and bill Huy Fong for the cost. The office of the city manager of Irwindale told they have no comment on the upcoming meeting. 

However, local and state Republicans say the issue at hand is not a public health problem, but California’s hostile policies toward businesses. On Saturday, the local chapter of the Republican Party drafted a resolution declaring their support for Huy Fong. 

Mark Vafiades, the chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, told the city’s actions are “ridiculous,” and that the story of the company’s founder David Tran is “basically the story of America.”

Tran, an immigrant from Vietnam, started out mixing his sauce in his home in 1980. His business grew, and he eventually opened a factory in nearby Rosemead -- and then the factory in Irwindale in 2012. 

After the factory opened, complaints began rolling in to the local air-quality management district and the city council.  

A spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District told they have received 70 complaints about the odor since Oct. 21, 2013, and approximately 60 percent of them have come from four households. The city has reported receiving approximately 30 complaints.  

Vafiades said the fact that the majority of the complaints come from a select few shows the city is favoring the needs of select individuals over what is really best for the community.

“Instead of looking at the facts and looking at it objectively, they are automatically siding against business,” he said.

The tussle is also attracting the interest of Republicans at the state level, with two Republican gubernatorial candidates speaking out in favor of Tran and Huy Fong.

Former Treasury official Neel Kashkari has started a petition on his campaign website urging his supporters to say “I Stand with Sriracha.” A spokeswoman for Kashkari’s campaign told he “loves Sriracha,” and wants it to continue to be manufactured in California.

“Although the current issue has to do with the City of Irwindale, the fact is that California's terrible business climate is making it increasingly difficult for great companies like Huy Fong Foods to continue operating in the state and creating jobs,” Jessica Hsiang Ng said.

Kashkari’s main GOP rival, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, also voiced his support for Tran, saying he reached out to him earlier this month and offered his assistance in the matter.

“I understand that there are complaints from some homes nearby, and those people should be heard -- but we're talking about 200 jobs that don't just grow on trees, and those jobs need to be protected by the government, not regulated to death and chased off to a state like Texas that we've already lost over 60 businesses to in the last year, while California has proportionally 45% more people living in welfare," Donnelly said in a statement to

The resolution is only the latest chapter in the battle between Huy Fong and Irwindale. The Los Angeles Times reports the city also sued the company, and in November won a partial shutdown of the plant.

Tran told the Los Angeles Times that while he is working to present the city with a solution to the odor, he feels nothing will be satisfactory. He said the company had told the city they would present a plan to mitigate the odor by June 1, but that did not seem to be enough.

Tran said he is now considering relocating to either a different city in California or a different state, and has invited officials from these places to come tour his factory.

"[City officials] tell you one thing, but think another," Tran told the Los Angeles Times. "I don't want to sit here and wait to die.”