Above image: Young Kim (left) and Michelle Park Steel, who won their respective races. Photo via Young Kim for State Assembly.
This year’s mid-term elections brought more wins than losses for the 20-plus Korean American candidates vying for political office across the country.
Among the candidates who emerged on top were Democratic incumbents Jane Kim and Ron Kim (no relation), who won re-election as San Francisco County supervisor and New York State Assembly member, respectively, and the GOP’s Young Kim and Michelle Park Steel, who won new seats in decisive victories. Young Kim, a longtime staffer for U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, unseated California’s 65th District Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, the Democratic incumbent, in a race closely watched by both political parties, as the Democrats’ supermajority was at risk. Meanwhile, Michelle Park Steel, who termed out from her post on the state Board of Equalization, earned a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Though Roy Cho failed in his bid to win a congressional seat for New Jersey’s District 5, other Korean American candidates vying for local offices in the Garden State were able to pull out victories. Peter Suh won a seat on the Fort Lee City Council, Chris Jung was elected to the Palisades Park City Council, and incumbent Gloria Oh successfully defended her seat representing the Borough of Englewood Cliffs.
In Georgia, B.J. Pak, a Republican, sailed to an unopposed victory representing the State Assembly’s 108th District, while John Park won a seat on the Brookhaven City Council’s District 2, capturing 59 percent of the vote. Democrat Patty Kim, the first and only Korean American to serve on the Pennsylvania state Legislature, earned a second term as District 103 representative. A former Harrisburg City councilwoman and news reporter, Kim ran unopposed.
About half of the Korean Americans on the ballot yesterday were running for offices in California. Peter Choi, candidate for the State Senate’s 24th District, failed to overtake fellow Democrat Kevin De Leon, the incumbent who sailed to a win with 66.7 percent of the vote to Choi’s 33.3 percent. Because California has an open primary system, the top two vote-getters, no matter what party, got to advance to the general election. Democrat Ken Park also lost his race to represent the state’s Assembly 60th District to Republican Eric Linder.
Korean Americans fared well in several Orange County area races. Irvine Mayor Steven S. Choi was able to fend off Mary Ann Gaido and retain his seat, but just barely, earning 45.3 percent to Gaido’s 43.1 percent, with 11.7 percent of the vote going to Katherine Daigle. Meanwhile, incumbent Steve Hwangbo was also able to secure his mayoral seat in the Orange County city of La Palma, while Sandra Lee won a seat to the Cypress School District Board of Trustees.
Andrew Park failed to win a seat on the Oakland City Council, as did Michael Kim in his bid for the Brea City Council. Josh Lee lost in his race for a seat on the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education, and Carol Kim failed to win her San Diego City Council race.
Meanwhile, in Washington state, voters re-elected Cindy Ryu to the State Assembly’s District 32, but fellow Democrat Shari Song lost her race to represent State Senate District 30, earning 43.5 percent of votes to Republican Mark Miloscia’s 56.5 percent.
Across the country, in Maryland, Mark Chang earned a seat on the Maryland House of Delegate’s District 32, joining two fellow Democratic delegates representing the district. He becomes the first Korean American to be elected to office in Anne Arundel County, according to the Capital Gazette. Self-described progressive Democrat David Moon also won his House of Delegates District 20 race.
Hawaii saw incumbents Sylvia Luke and Sharon Har re-elected to their State Assembly seats, while John Choi, who ran unopposed in Michigan, won his Ramsay County Attorney’s race.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to include additional election results.