KA Representation in Congress
We want Korean American voices to be heard from inside the room where decisions are made. A record number of Korean Americans ran for Congress in 2018.
Andy Kim of New Jersey became the first Korean American Democrat elected to the US Congress and only the second Korean American ever to be elected at the federal level.
Almost two weeks after Election Day, after counting tens of thousands of additional mail-in ballots, Young Kim came up short in her bid to become the first Korean American woman elected to Congress.
Read more about the Korean Americans who ran for the 116th Congress below.
Republican, California 39th
Almost two weeks after Election Day, after counting tens of thousands of additional mail-in ballots, Young Kim came up short in her bid to become the first Korean American woman elected to Congress. Young narrowly lost by about 1.6% of the vote out of 222,000 cast. Her opponent, Democrat Gil Cisneros will replace retiring thirteen-term Republican Ed Royce.
California’s 39th district, in Orange County, was seen as a battleground for the major parties. Its racial diversity was reflected in the two candidates for Congress. Asian Americans and Latinos each comprise about one fourth of registered voters; Gil Cisneros, the Democratic candidate, was Latino.
Young entered the race with many years of experience in politics and in working with the community in the 39th district. Her opponent, a major lottery winner, was a recent newcomer to the district and had no prior campaign experience.
Young was a former two-term California State Assemblywoman and former district aide of twenty years to Representative Ed Royce. Young’s career began in business and finance but shifted early on to public service, beginning with her relationship with then-state senator Royce in 1990. Young’s husband Charles is well-known in the Korean American community and has been involved with civic engagement and politics throughout his career as well.
Republican, Pennsylvania 5th
Pearl was defeated in the Nov. 6 election by her Democratic opponent, Mary Gay Scanlon, a civil rights lawyer.
Pearl had been strongly supported by county GOP leaders and faced no competition in her primary. The general election, however, was an uphill battle, as Pennsylvania’s 5th district had been redrawn to heavily favor Democrats.
Pearl was a former public prosecutor. She worked at both the county district attorney and state attorney general’s offices. Her focus as a county prosecutor was special victims, particularly sex crimes. Pearl was the first prosecutor in Pennsylvania to win a case under the state’s new human trafficking law. Like Pearl, the Democratic nominee for this newly-created district’s open seat was also a woman and a lawyer. Pennsylvania was therefore guaranteed at least one female Congressional representative in 2019.
Democrat, Massachusetts 3rd
The results of the September 17 Democratic primary election were so close, a recount took place. Following the recount, Dan Koh officially conceded to his opponent Lori Trahan, who ultimately won by less than one hundred votes out of approximately 89,000 cast.
As expected, Lori Trahan soundly defeated the Republican nominee in the general election on November 6.
Dan served as Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Boston for four years. Dan was 29 years old when he was tapped for this post. Prior to that he had been at the Huffington Post in a variety of roles, including Chief of Staff to its founder Arianna Huffington. As Chief of Staff to Mayor Marty Walsh Dan championed data-driven approaches to governing and city services. Dan is Korean-Lebanese. His father and uncle both served President Obama in Senate-confirmed leadership positions at the Health and Human Services and State Departments respectively.
Donna Mercado Kim
Democrat, Hawaii 1st
Donna was defeated in the Democratic primary on August 11 due, in part, to the late entry of Ed Case, who had represented the district as its congressman from 2002 to 2007. Donna placed third behind Doug Chin, Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii.
Ed Case easily won the general election and will return to Congress in 2019.
Donna Mercado Kim had been an elected official in Hawaii for over 34 years. She was currently serving on the Hawaii State Senate. A well-known figure in Hawaii politics, Donna also served on the Honolulu City Council and the Hawaii State House of Representatives. She also served for three years as Senate President. Her experience prior to politics included stints in small business, hospitality, and radio broadcasting. Kim was born and raised in Kalihi, Hawaii. Her father is second-generation Korean while her mother is Spanish-Filipino-Portuguese. This was her second run for the 1st Congressional district in Hawaii.
David J. Kim
Democrat, Georgia 7th
David narrowly lost the runoff for the Democratic nomination on July 24. His opponent, Carolyn Bourdeaux, a former state budget director and professor, is trailing incumbent Republican Rob Woodall in the vote count by a slim margin.
Bourdeaux plans to request a recount, with Rep. Woodall leading the vote count by less than one thousand votes.
David Kim was founder and former CEO of C2 Education, a national tutoring and test prep company he started in his college dorm room. Three years ago David stepped away from C2, at a point when it had built 200 locations and was serving 50,000 students annually, to refocus his life. He described his political awakening as the election of Donald Trump in 2016. As a Democrat, he vied for a Congressional seat that has been held by Republicans for 24 years. The district is changing, however. The white-only population of this Atlanta suburb recently dipped below half, to 49.1%.
Republican, Virginia 8th
Thomas Oh, who ran for the Republican nomination unopposed, was defeated by incumbent Democratic congressman Don Beyer.
Thomas Oh served as an Active Duty Army Officer overseas until his honorable discharge in 2017. He continues to serve as a Captain in the United States Army Reserve while working in project management. Thomas, a 25-year-old, was the first Korean American to run for federal office in Virginia.
Democrat, California 45th
In California’s non-partisan primaries on June 5, Dave narrowly lost his bid to place among the top two to qualify for the general election ballot. He came in third to Rep. Mimi Walters and fellow challenger and UC Irvine law professor Katie Porter.
Katie Porter defeated Rep. Walters in the general, as part of the Democratic sweep of Orange County congressional Republicans.
Dave Min is a law professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law, who, like many Americans, had a political reawakening after the 2016 presidential election. Dave began his career as an enforcement attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and developed his progressive policy thinking as an adviser to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and a director at the Center for American Progress. He decided to challenge incumbent Republican Mimi Walters for her House seat in part due to his and his parents’ immigrant experience and the growing anti-immigrant mood of the country.
Twenty members of Congress represent more than one in three KAs
We need more Korean Americans in elected office — but our elected representatives need not be Korean to serve us effectively.
In the 114th Congress (2015-2016), more than one-third of the Korean American population was covered by just twenty of the 435 members of the US House of Representatives, and none of them were KA.
As our community grows, we must hold candidates and incumbents, both Korean and non-Korean accountable. KAPA will publish legislative scorecards and campaign questionnaires to help compare their actions to our priorities.
Congressional House Districts Ranked by Korean American Population Size (114th Congress)
|KA %||State||Dist.||Representative||Party||KA Pop.|
|6.17%||NJ||9||Bill Pascrell, Jr.||Dem||42,249|
|KA %||State||Dist.||Representative||Party||KA Pop.|