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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Steven Choi on emphasizing reform and challenge against democrats

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[Meet the Candidates: Steven Choi]

California Senate District 37 is where disappointment and hope intersect. Contrary to expectations, 11 candidates from both parties have filed for this year’s primary. The district is familiar to Korean Americans, being the home of Congressman Dave Min, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives, and was previously contested by former Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang. This time, it’s former Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, a Republican who served multiple terms in the state Assembly. The district leans heavily Democratic, with an incumbent Democrat running in the neighboring district. The Korea Daily asked Choi, who claims to have a “special kind of luck,” about his primary strategy and odds.

The following is an edited excerpt from the interview.


Steven Choi


-Why should constituents choose Steven Choi over Democratic incumbents?
“The Democrats have monopolized decision-making power, and the state’s livelihood is declining. If the administration had been effective and the state legislature competent, there wouldn’t be so many residents leaving. The situation has become frustrating with extreme policymaking and decisions uniformly favoring Democrats. Judgment must be made. I would give Governor Newsom a 30 out of 100 for his performance last year.”

-How do you assess the current state of the election?
“There’s a last-minute rush of candidates, resulting in 11 candidates in the race. There are seven Democrats. I believe the spread of votes in the primary may give me an advantage and that I have a better chance of making it to the general election. Most of the candidates are minor, and few have been vetted by voters in elected office. We’re hoping that name recognition from Irvine and the State Assembly will help.”

-Fellow party members Michelle Steel and Young Kim have not yet endorsed you.
“I have endorsed both of them and am awaiting their endorsements.”

-The incumbent Democrats seem to be the favorites.
“Fullerton is the only part of Newman’s district that overlaps with his old district. Of course, he’s an incumbent, so he will attract votes, but it won’t be as easy as before. Also, there are six more candidates running; even if they’re not strong, the votes will be scattered.”

-On the need for money, is funding enough?
“Funding is crucial in the primary, especially since this is a seat representing the Korean-American community in the California State Senate and House of Representatives. The 37th District, home to 940,000 residents, is the size of two House districts. Our campaign has raised $80,000 to $90,000 since late last year. In Sacramento, Senate races are known to cost at least $300,000 and up to $2 million before a general election.”

-Overall, Korean Americans’ support is not what it used to be. Why?
“There are reasons for this, like the bad economy and inflation. But it would be beneficial if the Korean American community could again raise awareness of their political power. I need to survive the primary to get party support, and the Korean community needs to step forward first so that I can go out and do more.”

-For Republican supporters, it’s easy to think that California is a Democrat state and nothing will change.
“Even if it’s frustrating, difficult, or expensive, we have to keep going. Democracy breaks down the moment you think your voice, your vote, doesn’t matter. If we don’t overcome this defeatism, we will forever live submissively. In that sense, Korean American community leaders must encourage voting.”

BY BRIAN CHOI, JUNHAN PARK    [ichoi@koreadaily.com]