OCEAN/BURLINGTON COUNTIES, NJ – Despite his years of public service, then candidate Andy Kim was a virtual unknown when he ran for New Jersey’s third district congressional seat two years ago. Now, the Democratic incumbent faces a highly contentious general election after GOP voters select their nominee in next week’s primary. A Barnegat local makes it a three-person rivalry come November.
Kim is a first generation American of South Korean descent, who grew up in the third congressional district and attended public schools from K-12 in Marlton and Cherry Hill.
“My family and I refer to this area as the place that gave us everything,” shared Kim.
Before coming to the United States, both of Kim’s parents grew up in what he described as “tough situations.” His father is a polio survivor who lived in an orphanage during his childhood. Kim’s mother was raised by a single mom and grew up on a poor farm.
Despite their less than optimal beginnings, Kim’s mother and father found education as the key to their dreams when they became Americans. His dad achieved a doctorate in genetics; his mom became a nurse in New Jersey’s hospital system.
Ultimately, Kim followed his parent’s lead and recognized the critical importance of education. He became a Rhodes Scholar and earned a Ph.D. in Foreign Policy.
“I wanted to find a way to push towards service,” Kim explained. “My dad always taught me that service wasn’t just a job – it was a way of life.”
As a polio survivor, the senior Kim dedicated his life to curing the next great disease. Andy Kim decided to focus his service on making contributions to the government.
“I served in a number of different places dealing with foreign policy,” said Kim. “These include the State Department, the Pentagon, and the White House National Security Council.”
At the height of the war in Afghanistan, Kim served as a civilian advisor under the military commander. He stressed that he was not a political appointee and was there as a career public servant.
According to Kim, he has not based his service options on partisanship. His first low-level job started during the Bush administration. Kim worked under the direction of late Republican Senator Richard Lugar from Indiana on foreign policy. While he worked at the state department and in Afghanistan, party affiliation was a non-issue.
Kim continues with the same mindset as far as excluding partisan politics when it comes to national security and other elements of service.
“We need a new type of leadership in our country,” Kim stated. “We need a type of government that is going to be inclusive and is going to ensure people treat each other with respect and civility.”
Republican candidates David Richter and Kate Gibbs have both criticized Kim for voting for Nancy Pelosi. They claim he promised he would not do so.
“I did say that I wanted to see a new generation of leadership on both sides of the aisle,” said Kim. “I still want to have new voices and new leaders and hope to be part of them.”
Kim referred to this and other issues raised by Richter and Gibbs as generic attacks used by Republicans throughout the nation. He said the primary reason he entered the race to represent the district was healthcare, including how it related to protecting people with preexisting conditions. Kim also considers the high cost of prescription drugs a critical issue.
“I also wanted to get rid of the cap on state and local tax deductions,” Kim stressed. “This was the promise I made as it affects people’s daily lives.”
According to Kim, he continues to focus on local issues related to his constituency. He has made himself available at numerous town hall events, including one related to the former Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant. The CD-03 congressman has devoted time to flooding and flooding insurance.
“I am working around the clock with my team to improve the healthcare for veterans in Ocean and Burlington counties,” said Kim. “I am holding the VA accountable for the continual delays when it comes to healthcare for veterans.”
Kim says he is proud of the work he’s done with keeping the Joint Military Base for national security. He is also a member of the Armed Services Committee and says the joint base also serves as an engine for the local economy.
When the House formed a coronavirus committee, Kim became one of 12 members appointed to it. He says his selection as a freshman congressman was based on his national security background and work in the Situation Room.
“I’ve worked on national security crises, including counter-terrorism,” Kim shared. “The fact that I’ve worked in a number of different departments and agencies means I know the resources we have.”
Kim also serves on the House Small Business Committee and says he know businesses were struggling even before the pandemic hit. He’s trying to fix the system designed to help them, including extended timelines and ensuring money doesn’t go to larger companies who aren’t at the edge of the cliff. Kim acknowledged the state itself is experiencing a financial crisis and needs assistance from the federal government.
When asked about his Republican opponents, Kim said that he was not clear on either of their policies or platforms. However, he expressed his gratitude to Gibbs for the work she did within the community when she was a freeholder.
“I don’t know very much about Marty Weber, other than that he is a veteran,” said Kim. “I am grateful for his service to our nation. I see him coming from a strong place as far as raising frustrations as veterans should be at the top of our minds. They had our backs and kept us safe. We continue to betray our promise to veterans to take care of them.”
Amid the pandemic, Republicans Richter and Gibbs have both encountered their share of campaign challenges for the upcoming primary election. Both agreed to a virtual debate with both sides declaring victory.
Barnegat resident Martin Weber declared his candidacy earlier this year as an independent candidate for the house seat in CD-3. He has his own ideas as far as what he plans to do once he gets there.
The Republican race for the CD-3 nomination represents the most heated contest in the local 2020 primary. That said, final results will not be available when the polls close next Tuesday. Election officials say it could take as long as two weeks to come up with the tally of mail-in and provisional ballots.
Sign up for TAPinto E-News alerts to be the first to read about all things local
Please send all story leads or Letters to the Editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.