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?
I am running for Congress in California’s 34th District.
The district includes Downtown Los Angeles, Koreatown, Boyle Heights, Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, Little Tokyo, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Westlake, MacArthur Park, Historic Filipino Town, Little Bangladesh and surrounding neighborhoods.
When is the election date?
The general election will take place on November 3, 2020.
What is your party registration (if any)?
I am a registered Democrat.
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 was born and raised in the U.S. as a 2nd generation Korean American to immigrant pastor parents who didn’t have the opportunity to learn English and fully assimilate into mainstream American culture. Growing up, I was the spokesperson for our family from the time I was able to read, write and speak English.
As a child, I had no problem speaking in Korean and learning Korean culture and traditions at home or at our Korean American church. However, I was often made to feel ashamed of my identity at school, where classmates were not shy about reminding me that I was different. They made fun of me for always smelling like garlic, or would pull the sides of their eyes to mimic mine when I walked past.
It wasn’t until college that I finally began to embrace my heritage and accept my differences. I realized that everyone’s individual experiences, heritage, culture, background and passions make them unique and interesting. Ever since, I’ve always put in effort to learn from and connect with each person I meet, without judging them by their background or the way they look.
Embracing my culture taught me empathize with people of all backgrounds and heritages. I started to listen to and learn from others when they speak about the injustices they face, and I began to ask, “What can I do to help?”
My passion for justice, born from pride in my heritage, led me to become an attorney. After law school, my first job was at the LA County DA’s office where I worked on cases against corrupt public officials like Robert Rizzo, who was convicted of embezzling taxpayer money.
After that, I worked as an entertainment attorney to help struggling creatives through HollywoodLawyer.com, which provides affordable legal service options to those being taken advantage of. I helped so many Asian American and Korean pop acts navigate the U.S. music industry that I became known as the “LA K-Pop attorney.”
I currently work in immigration law, defending respondents in court when they receive their Notice To Appear, or fighting for their asylum. I also serve as a community organizer and neighborhood council board member, pushing to stop the neglect and displacement of our people.
That’s why I’m running for Congress: to be a strong and effective voice for CA-34’s diverse, vibrant communities.
How did you become inspired to seek elected office?
California’s 34th congressional district is the 10th poorest in the country. Too many of us are forced to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. We have 46,000 brothers and sisters living unhoused. The per capita income in many parts of our district is $1,250 per month, while the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment exceeds $1,800 per month.
As the son of immigrants, and as someone who had to drive Ubers until 3:00 a.m. to pay off student loan debt, I can empathize with the struggles faced by many constituents in my district. From firsthand experience, I can say that we deserve better.
I became very politically engaged over the last few years through local activism and through my work on Kenneth Mejia’s 2018 congressional campaign in the same district I now hope to win.
It’s time that we prioritize the people of this district and implement bold, radical change. We cannot afford to waste another two years by re-electing the establishment-backed incumbent who prioritizes the interests of his corporate donors over his constituents.
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?
Universal Basic Income (More at DavidKim2020.com)
I propose a UBI of $1,000 per month for adults and $500 per month for children. Why UBI?
- Automation, already an issue, will cause one in every three Americans to lose their jobs over the next twelve years. COVID-19 has further accelerated mass layoffs.
- Income disparity is currently at its highest in recent history between the working class and top 1% of our country’s income earners.
- Wages have stagnated for three decades. A UBI will stimulate our economy by increasing the purchasing power of working-class Americans.
- Unions, which lobby for workers’ rights, are on the decline. In the 1970s, one in three workers was unionized. Today, that number has shrunk to one in 20.
Like Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, I propose a 10 percent Value-Added Tax (VAT), or a tax on a business’s production of goods or services. 160 out of 193 countries in the world already have a VAT or something similar, including all of Europe, which has an average VAT of 20 percent.
Medicare for All (More at DavidKim2020.com)
We’re fighting for a single-payer national health insurance program that will guarantee coverage for every American. In doing so, we’ll eliminate premiums, deductibles, co-pays and surprise bills.
We’ll include vision, dental, in and out-patient care, prescriptions, mental health care, and reproductive and maternity care.
We’ll lower prescription drug prices by empowering Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and by enabling patients and providers to purchase low-cost medications from other nations. Through the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, we’ll halve prescription drug prices by pegging costs to median prices in five other major nations.
By meeting people’s basic needs, we will relieve millions of their anxiety surrounding sickness and medical debt. Other issues — like mass incarceration, homelessness, and more — will also be mitigated once people are getting the mental and physical care they need.
Defund the Police (More at DavidKim2020.com)
Black Americans are almost three times as likely to be killed by police and five times as likely to be incarcerated as white Americans. Systemic racism, militarization of policing and excessive force continue to pervade American law enforcement.
We’ll fight to:
- Demilitarize police. Military gear should be limited to those who are required to use it, such as SWAT teams. Those officers should receive the same training and be held to the same standards as members of the military.
- Equip independent civilian oversight boards with the power to issue administrative subpoenas and impose penalties for misconduct.
- Limit the power of police unions to negotiate contract items other than pay benefits and other things typically covered by unions.
- Enact the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act (H.R. 1498) to prohibit profiling by law enforcement and intelligence agencies based on race, religion or national origin.
- End qualified immunity for officers and government officials to ensure accountability and fairness in prosecution.
- Ban no-knock raids.
- Establish a national domestic violence registry with a heightened designation for domestically violent officers.
- Call for more Department of Justice investigations of police departments, as those that receive federal intervention have 25-30% fewer police shootings than those that do not.
- Ban “resisting arrest” as a sole justification for arrest.
- Require all costs of police-related lawsuits be covered by officer pensions and/or personal liability insurance, which will remove taxpayer burden, among other benefits.
- Fire and remand the pensions of officers convicted in excessive force cases.
- Cap overtime pay for military exercises.
- Reduce the size of the police force.
- Abolish civil asset forfeiture, which is routinely used to arbitrarily separate citizens from property without regard for due process.
What impact has the current political climate had on you as an Asian American and/or Pacific Islander progressive seeking elected office?
It is crucial that the diversity of our elected officials also represent the diversity of our communities and constituents, and that all communities are represented fairly. As an Asian American progressive, it’s important for me to speak out against racist anti-Asian sentiment and messaging as well as unequal access to opportunities that are afforded to the white mainstream.
It is important that we also increase Asian American representation in our federal government, so we can push leadership to value our society’s rich diversity.
Recently, COVID-19 has given rise to a wave of anti-Asian rhetoric and racist acts towards the AAPI community, spearheaded by our president who refers to the virus as the “kung-flu.” There’s no excuse for this kind of malicious, hateful rhetoric, especially at the highest levels of our government.
What advice would you have for other young Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders currently considering a career in politics and/or public service?
My advice is to be bold, be courageous, and to take action while connecting deeply with your selves and with each other, for that’s the only way to move forward on common ground. We really are just one race despite our differences. The sooner we learn to respect those differences, the better this world will be.
I also want to say that there’s no reason for anyone to shy away from considering a career in politics because of their background or heritage. Your life experiences make you unique and interesting, and allow you to bring something different to the table. Your cultural background is a strength, not a liability.
Where can readers go to learn more about you and your campaign?
Readers can visit my campaign website (DavidKim2020.com). They can also follow me on:
- Facebook: Facebook.com/DavidKimForCongress
- Instagram: @DavidKim2020
- Twitter: @DavidKim2020
- YouTube: @DavidKim2020
How can readers get involved to help your campaign? Are there any upcoming events you’d like for us to know about?
Anyone who wants to volunteer can submit their availability and interests through our website.
To donate to my campaign, visit ActBlue .
And if you have any family or friends living in Los Angeles, or more specifically, California’s 34th Congressional District, please share information about our campaign with them, and help us secure their vote. We’re open to meeting with them via a Zoom meeting as well, through this site.
Correction: An earlier version of this post indicated that Kim worked on Mejia’s campaign in 2017, not 2018. That error has since been corrected.
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.