Once again, a record number of Asian Americans and a growing number of Pacific Islanders are running for public office at the local, state, and national level.
Every week, Reappropriate will profile progressive AAPI candidates for higher office, as well as officials serving in public office. Check back at Reappropriate throughout 2020 to learn more about these candidates and find out how you can get more involved in their campaigns.
What is your full name?
What office are you seeking?
Indiana State Representative, District 15. Running for re-election after winning in 2018.
When is the election date?
November 3, 2020
What is your party registration (if any)?
Tell me a little bit about your background in general, as well as your relationship to your identity as an Asian American and/or Pacific Islander?
I am the son of Korean immigrants who came to America in the 80s and settled in northwest Indiana. Growing up in a state where the Asian population is small, I have gotten used to being the only Asian person in the room, especially in the Statehouse. In retrospect, I don’t feel I have done an adequate job connecting to my heritage, but I hope to do so more.
How did you become inspired to seek elected office?
I was never politically active; my degree is in engineering and my background is in real estate.
After graduating from college in New York City in 2016 and coming back to Indiana where I voted in my first election, I decided to get further informed. I googled who my elected officials were and decided that I wanted to help a campaign in my spare time to unseat an incumbent. After asking around town if anyone wanted to run against him, no one said they wanted to, so I decided to throw my name in. I ended up falling in love with political strategy and communications, so I worked hard, put together a phenomenal team of volunteers, and had a little bit of luck after being completely written off by my opponent. I honestly didn’t expect to win, but ended up prevailing on election night by 82 votes out of nearly 25,000 cast.
What three issues do you think are most important to your constituents, and what step(s) do you plan to take to address them if elected?
At this moment, defeating COVID-19 is the top priority. The state of Indiana must pass a Hoosier-friendly budget that benefits people over multinational corporations and the wealthy, since our economy and families have been rocked by this virus.
Second is public education funding. Our schools have some of the lowest per-student funding and teacher salaries in the Midwest, and our state has the largest voucher program in the nation.
Third, redistricting reform will be of top importance after the decennial census. I will advocate for a nonpartisan, independent commission that doesn’t allow politicians to choose who they represent.
What impact has the current political climate had on you as an Asian American and/or Pacific Islander progressive seeking elected office?
Under President Bush and President Obama, I never felt particularly concerned about widespread anti-Asian rhetoric. But the current political climate and rhetoric has encouraged the targeting and harassment of minorities alongside the emboldening of hate groups and violence. The casual racism and prejudice that has been further normalized by COVID-19 has made me more protective of our community. No one should feel like they are responsible for or more susceptible to the virus just because of their race or ethnicity, but it is hard to believe that many people need to be reminded of that in the year 2020.
What advice would you have for other young Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders currently considering a career in politics and/or public service?
Do it! We need young Asians more than ever to step up, lead and represent. If you are a millennial with traditionalist parents like mine, expect that they will naturally discourage you from entering into such a bruising, public arena. But when I see that the state legislature and its staff have fewer than three Asian people working for the state of Indiana, I double down on my resolve to increase our representation. Contact me if you want to chat about it or want advice. If I don’t have the answers, someone I know will.
Where can readers go to learn more about you and your campaign?
Donate: via ActBlue
How can readers get involved to help your campaign? Are there any upcoming events you’d like for us to know about?
Please send an email to [email protected] if you would like to donate, call voters from home, decorate postcards to voters, or canvass for us!
If you are a progressive Asian American or Pacific Islander running for or currently serving in elected office in 2020, and would like to be profiled in this series, please contact me for more information.