The Star-Ledger endorsed Congressman Andy Kim yesterday stating, “[Rep. Andy] Kim is the better candidate by any measure… The 3rd District is lucky to have such a dedicated and principled member of Congress.” Even with this strong support from the largest newspaper in his home state, Andy Kim is in a tough race this year. I had the opportunity to ask him about his platform and thoughts as he fights for his third term in office.
Raised by immigrant parents in Marlton, New Jersey, Kim knows the importance of giving voice to people whose interests aren’t at the forefront of national discourse. He first sought office “to fix the healthcare system” but his viral moment came when he felt compelled to literally help pick up the broken pieces of the January 6th storming of the Capitol. Still in his suit, it was past midnight but Kim could not leave the ravages of the rotunda to the morning’s cleanup crew and he went from room to room with trash bags in hand.
At the age of 40, Kim has accomplished so much since graduating from the University of Chicago. A Rhodes scholar, he interned at the United States Agency for International Development before going on to work under both Democrats and Republicans at the U.S. State Department, the Pentagon, and the White House National Security Council. Kim wants to “bring people back together” to solve problems at a time when political divides seem almost insurmountable.
Kim has sponsored bills primarily in the armed forces and national security sector along with healthcare and commerce. He introduced legislation for responsible gun ownership, military family protection from debt, and measures to help small businesses. He’s also an incredibly principled leader who is willing to defy his party’s leadership when he feels necessary.
“I disagree strongly,” stated Kim about stock trading by members of Congress, a practice defended by party leader Nancy Pelosi. “Americans are losing trust in government, and we need to show we serve the people, not our personal/political self-interest.”
Through his leadership and love for the country, Congressman Kim is trailblazing a way for others to follow in his footsteps.
Jane Kim: Why do you believe it is important to have Asian representation in Congress?
Andy Kim: I think it’s really important to have representation at the highest levels of government. Kids should see people that look like them in places they aspire to go so that they can dream big and know that anything is possible. I want my kids to grow up knowing they can be anything they want to be, and with hard work can achieve anything.
Why do you think it’s important for Asians to have a voice and why do you feel compelled to serve, especially during this time when the political environment is so divisive and polarizing?
It feels like this country is becoming addicted to anger, and that anger is quickly driving us apart and polarizing our communities and our politics. Our diverse nation is fracturing and it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that we are a part of something bigger than all of us. I think service to one another is one of the ways we can start to really bring people back together. I hope that having a voice at the table encourages others to join me and come together to talk about issues and find places of common ground that we can agree on.
Could you give us some insight into what you have been able to achieve during your time in Congress? What are some pieces of legislation you’ve sponsored or co-sponsored?
I’m incredibly proud of a lot that we’ve accomplished in my time in Congress. We passed a landmark, bipartisan infrastructure bill that is going to help rebuild our country, fix roads and bridges, replace lead pipes, and build out our digital infrastructure.
We passed a bill that is going to dramatically bring down the cost of healthcare in America by holding pharmaceutical companies accountable and allowing Medicare to negotiate down the cost of prescription drugs.
And another thing I’m really proud of is passing into law a bill that’s going to create a commission to study building a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture in Washington DC. Helping people with real problems in their lives is really important. But it’s also important that we embrace the incredible history that Asians have had across American history.
JK: From your time as a collegiate intern in government to being a political Rhodes Scholar then working at the US State Department, your commitment to the public sector stretches back many years. What are some takeaways from that journey to becoming a US Congressman?
Throughout my career in government, I’ve always seen myself as a public servant. In this job we have a responsibility to serve people to the best of our ability.
Currently, it’s the honor of my life to represent in Congress the community where I did my K-12 in school. My parents raised me and my sister here because of the excellent public schools, the welcoming community, and the safety. I want to do everything in my power to make sure that my kids and future generations have those same opportunities I had growing up. So I think my takeaway is that there’s still more work to do and I’m up for the challenge.
Right now you’re currently campaigning as a two-time incumbent. What have been some of the challenges you’ve encountered in seeking a third term? How have you been able to validate the support of your constituents?
This election is different from any other election. Because of redistricting, I need to introduce myself to over 300,000 new people in this district. I see this as an incredible opportunity to bring people together and talk about some of the things we’re trying to accomplish here in
New Jersey and on a national level. Things like protecting women’s rights, lowering costs for families, supporting small businesses, and making sure we’re keeping our promise to veterans. I’m very excited by this opportunity and hope to continue building on the success we’ve had over the last four years.
Tell me about your personal life. When did your parents come to the States and what was your life like growing up? Can you talk about your current family life, about your relationship with your children and how they feel about you serving in Congress?
My parents grew up in Korea and were both pretty poor. They came to America and settled here in New Jersey because they wanted my sister and I to have every opportunity available to us. They saw this place as somewhere my sister and I could get a great education. Because of them, I was able to go off to Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, become a public servant, serving under both a Republican and a Democrat president, meet my wife, and settle down here where I hope to send my kids to school in the same community I did my K-12 education.
I often say that I might not be the “tuck my kids into bed every night” kind of dad, but I will certainly do all I can to be the “fight for their future” kind of dad. Representing the community that gave me so much is an honor, and I hope to use this opportunity to give my kids and everyone’s kids the same opportunities my sister and I had growing up.
Finally, to those who are minorities and are seeking to run for Congress one day, what are some pieces of advice you would give to them? How can they effectively communicate with and for their constituents?
My first piece of advice is to not self-select oneself from these opportunities. I know running for office can seem daunting, but the first step is signing up to run and then running. I first ran for Congress because I wanted to fix our healthcare system. If there’s something that you’re passionate about, that keeps you up at night, and that you’re willing to roll your sleeves up and try to fix, then public service is a great place to do that work.
During my first campaign I promised to hold a town hall every single month. I’ve held 55 town halls since being elected, and I’ve found it’s the best way to hear directly from people about their concerns, what they care about, and we can have an honest conversation about the issues we’re facing as a community. I hope people in my district and across the country see me as someone who’s willing to work with anyone; as someone who’s eager to roll up their sleeves to meet the challenges we face today. It’s an honor to represent this district in Congress and I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support I’ve gotten from Korean Americans across the country.
To support Andy Kim’s re-election campaign, please follow link to Andy Kim for Congress.
Jane Kim broadcast news reporter who has a passion for interviewing people about issues that matter. A member of the Asian American Journalists Association, Jane is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.