Democratic congressional candidate Ron Kim is an energetic lawyer from Queensbury with a detailed view on the state of U.S. politics and plans on how to fix it.
Growing up in an all-Republican home in Saratoga Springs, Kim said most Asian-Americans in his community were GOP supporters until President Donald Trump drew many across the aisle.
Kim said he changed political labels when he felt the GOP’s priorities and mission had changed.
“I don’t know if I’ve changed any of my real positions; the Republican Party is very different. The Nelson Rockefeller wing of the party would probably be considered the liberal wing of the Democratic Party now,” he said.
Kim was a Democratic politician long before Trump was a Republican candidate, unseating Saratoga Springs’ Republican commissioner of public safety in 2006. Kim’s win came after a scandal in the office of the previous commissioner, who had spent a decade in the seat.
Kim did not decide to run for congressional office until he saw the violence and bigotry of the Charlottesville, Virginia white supremacy rally in August 2017.
He was concerned over the path national politics was taking, although he believes the racist and sexist voices making their way into mainstream discourse represent a minority of Americans.
Most Trump voters have a good sense of right and wrong but have been sold a political “jalopy” by Trump, he said.
The biggest mistake President Barack Obama made during his two terms was failing to hold bankers responsible for the fraud that resulted in the financial meltdown of 2008, he said.
That collapse led some Democratic voters to lose faith in their party as they lost their homes and those responsible were not held accountable, he said.
Listen and learn
A foreclosure, bankruptcy and employment litigation lawyer, Kim said he has a consumer-driven purpose in his job, working with people facing hard financial times or discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
A consumer-driven mindset — with the “consumer” being the taxpayer — is what is missing from Congress, he said.
Listening to people who don’t agree with him — even being yelled at — is part of the job, and a part that the district’s current representative, Rep. Elise Stefanik, has not fulfilled, he said.
“She took a position on the health care bill; she should be ready to defend it in front of her constituents,” Kim said. “I was just flabbergasted that she was unwilling to do that.”
Kim said he would hold an annual summit, hosting the district’s brightest minds in business, academia and government, to focus on economic and infrastructure development.
Kim wants high-speed broadband internet cable for the district, a “Rooftop Highway” across northern New York and a veterans hospital. His focus for development would be attracting the attention of Silicon Valley technology companies, which will require reliable broadband and Wi-Fi for employees working from home, as well as highly skilled workers, he said.
Health care, taxes, Citizens United
Kim is a supporter of universal health care with a public option, but given the current political climate, he concedes that is not feasible in 2018. An unspoken benefit of the system, he said, would be lower local taxes as local governments’ burden to provide health care for employees would be unnecessary.
“Any local government, their biggest expenditure is employees,” Kim said. “Usually, they have very good health care — it’s expensive.”
Universal health care would be “the opposite of an unfunded mandate,” he said, saving local governments millions of dollars.
Ideally, he would like to see the reversal of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which protected limitless corporate campaign contributions as free speech.
“As long as these people can hoist this kind of money on candidates, it’s going to have a terrible effect on politics,” Kim said.
He proposes having Congress tax the contributions, which total in the billions in election years, raising money for the federal government.
Kim has not completed his financial filings for the fourth quarter yet but said he has raised around $5,000 thus far.
He says Congress will need a large, reform-minded class of freshmen who have not built their campaigns on corporate contributions to get campaign finance reform passed, and he wants to be part of that class.
Kim is one of nine Democrats in an 11-person race. Primaries will be held June 26 and a general election in November.