By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
Members of the L.A.-area Asian American community held a fundraiser for a Bay Area candidate for State Senate, Jane Kim, on Oct. 26 at Seoul Sausage in Little Tokyo.
Kim, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and former member of the San Francisco Board of Education, is in a tight race in the 11th Senate District with a fellow supervisor and fellow Democrat, Scott Weiner, as a result of the primary system in which the top two vote-getters, even if they are from the same party, go to the general election. The third candidate in the June primary was Republican Ken Loo.
The Senate seat is currently held by Democrat Mark Leno, who is termed out.
Kim, whose endorsers include former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, said, “I really appreciate being adopted the Los Angeles/Southern California community as a Bay Area candidate.”
She thanked her local supporters, including Yong Kim of Seoul Sausage, former Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang, and Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, who was unable to attend due to a death in the family.
“This is my fifth time I’m running for office,” she noted. “Many of you supported me when I ran for the Board of Education. I started out as a youth community organizer … in Chinatown in San Francisco. After the Board of Education I ran for the Board of Supervisors with much of your support. I’m proud to be the first and only Korean American elected in San Francisco. Hopefully that will change over time …
“Despite being outspent 2-to-1 in my race in June, we came in first place by 659 votes. So it’s a very, very close race. My opponent is now trying to outspend me almost 4 to 1 in this race. In the month of September, I saw a million dollars in independent expenditures come out against me from associations outside of San Francisco that are trying to influence the race … We are fighting back.”
While the majority of contributions are under $100, she said, “every contribution makes a difference” and will enable her to “win the ground game in San Francisco, Daly City and Colma.”
Kim added, “Women only make up 25 percent of the California State Legislature. There are only four in the State Senate, one of whom is termed out. She’s an Asian American Democrat (Carol Liu of La Cañada Flintridge). There’s only one other Asian American Democrat in the Senate (Richard Pan of Sacramento).”
There is also an Asian American Republican in the Senate, Janet Nguyen of Garden Grove.
Kim is one of five Asian Americans on the ballot for State Senate in November, along with Democrats Warren Furutani (35th Senate District) and Mariko Yamada (3rd Senate District) and Republicans Ling Ling Chang (29th Senate District) and Alan Nakanishi (5th Senate District). Kang finished third in the 29th District primary.
“I want to congratulate you on your amazing run this year,” Kim told Kang. “It takes an amazing amount of courage to run in a race.”
Despite being a high-profile politician in San Francisco, where she is supporting a ballot measure to make community college free, Kim said that some San Franciscans don’t recognize her as an elected official. “There isn’t week that goes by that someone doesn’t think that I’m my own secretary.”
One of the reasons she is running for State Senate is that “I believe it is one of the most relevant policy- and law-making bodies in the country. Sacramento passes two to three times as many bills as Washington, D.C. … Our State Legislature is enacting some of the most important laws in the country, whether it is about single-parent universal health care, housing, homelessness, criminal justice, prison reform, or most importantly, K-12 education and public higher education. All of these decisions are now being made at the state level on issues that D.C. should be leading in, like the environment …
“California has decided to lead, setting one of the toughest carbon-emission goals in the country. This is the type of work that I’d like to continue.”
Although public schools account for 40 percent of the state budget, it doesn’t account for 40 percent of the work in Sacramento, Kim said. “We are ranked in the bottom 10 of almost any criteria that you can imagine, whether it’s per-pupil spending, where we rank roughly about 47th in the country, despite being one of the wealthiest states in the U.S. and the sixth-largest economy in the world, or in investing in public higher education. I believe that we have a lot more work to do.”
Kim also pointed out that over the last 30 years, state spending on prisons has gone up from 3 percent to 9 percent of the budget while spending on the CSU and UC systems went down from 18 percent to 12 percent. “When you talk about the school-to-prison pipeline, it is real here in California. Our state has decided that they are going to be investing in prisons as institution where young Californians will end up. We’ve built 23 state prisons in the last 30 years and only one UC and three CSUs.
“There’s significantly more we can do in funding education work and I also believe that sentencing reform, criminal justice reform and prison reform are really one of the most important civil rights issues of our time … It’s incredibly expensive and isn’t actually achieving the goals it set out to, which is to make our community safer.”
Homelessness is one of the biggest issues facing both San Francisco and Los Angeles, Kim said, noting that the local City Council has asked for a statewide declaration of emergency and that she has introduced a similar resolution. “We have over 20 percent of the nation’s homeless count here in the state of California … The fastest-growing demographic is working families, single mothers with jobs and children … We’re increasingly seeing families sleeping in parks and tents …
“I don’t think San Francisco and Los Angeles can stop homelessness on their own … We really need to respond by infusing large amounts of revenue into building affordable housing throughout the state.”
Speaking in support of Kim were spoken-word artist Beau Sia and filmmaker Justin Chon. Other endorsers include Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, Los Angeles City Councilmember Nury Martinez, restaurateur Roy Choi, columnist Jeff Yang, California Women’s List, California Young Democrats API Caucus, and Korean American Democratic Committee.