Representation in Congress
Korean American voices need to be heard inside the room where decisions are made. The record set in 2018 of two Korean Americans running for Congress has been eclipsed with more than double the number of Korean Americans running for Congress in 2020.
In 2018, Andy Kim of New Jersey became the first Korean American elected to the US Congress since 1992. He was the first Korean American elected on the East Coast and first Democrat. He is up for re-election this year.
This year there are 5 candidates running for Congress from three states: New Jersey, California, and Washington.
Read more about the Americans of Korean descent who are running for the 118th Congress below.
Democrat, New Jersey 3rd
Congressman Andy Kim was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. He represents the Third Congressional District of New Jersey, which stretches from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean encompassing most of Burlington County and parts of Ocean County.
Congressman Kim grew up in South Jersey, the proud son of Korean immigrants. His father and mother raised Andy and his sister in South Jersey because of the top-notch public school system and safe communities. Andy attended public K-12 schools and credits the quality of his education with helping him become a Rhodes Scholar and leading national security expert.
Andy is a dedicated public servant, who believes service is a way of life. He worked as a career public servant under both Democrats and Republicans, and served at the Pentagon, State Department, the White House National Security Council, and in Afghanistan as an advisor to Generals Petraeus and Allen.
Michelle Park Steel
Republican, California 48th
Elected to the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2014 with more than 62% of the vote, Michelle Steel represents the residents of the Second District, which includes, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Huntington Beach, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Newport Beach, Seal Beach, Stanton, the unincorporated area of Rossmoor, and portions of Buena Park and Fountain Valley. Steel, a successful businesswoman and renowned taxpayer advocate, previously served as Vice Chair of the State Board of Equalization where she represented more than eight million people in Southern California, including all of Orange County, as one of the state’s 12 constitutional officers. At the time, Steel was the highest-ranking Korean-American elected official in the United States. In 2017 she was unanimously voted to serve as Chairwoman for the Orange County Board of Supervisors. In 2018 she was re-elected to serve as the Second District Representative to the Orange County Board of Supervisors with more than 63% of the vote, and in 2019 she was elected by her colleagues to serve her second term as Chairwoman of the Board.
Republican, California 39th
An immigrant to the United States, Young Kim has dedicated her life to public service and giving back to her community. She started her public service as Director of Community Relations and Asian Affairs for Congressman Ed Royce, where she was a key liaison to the local communities and advised Congressman Royce on issues pertaining to the Asian community.
Despite long odds in 2014, Young Kim unseated an incumbent Democrat to become the first ever Korean-American Republican woman elected to serve in the State Assembly. As an Assemblywoman, Young Kim was a champion of public safety causes, low tuition rates, veterans, children, and victims of domestic violence.
In 2018, Young Kim ran for the 39th Congressional District and lost by a very narrow margin, despite being heavily outspent and is fighting in a rematch. Her race has been receiving national attention and this year, she has been honored by Politico as a Woman of Impact, and by the Marian Bergeson Series with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Democrat, California 34th
David Kim is an immigration attorney, activist, and neighborhood board council member serving his Los Angeles community. Throughout his career, David has always fought for the underrepresented. Before becoming an immigration attorney, David litigated labor and employment cases, represented working class creatives, and fought against corruption in his city. If elected, David would be the first Korean American to represent Los Angeles in Congress.
Democrat, Washington 10th
Marilyn Strickland is a candidate to represent Washington’s 10th Congressional District. Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Tacoma, Washington, Marilyn comes from a military family. If elected to Congress, she will be the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress in its 230-year history, and the first African-American to represent Washington state at the federal level.
As Mayor of Tacoma, Marilyn helped transform a city and economy crippled by a deep recession into a destination for families, workers, artists, tourists and entrepreneurs. She launched the Minority Business Development Agency, helped attract over $1 billion in investment for housing and businesses, and invested over $500 million in infrastructure for roads, bridges, transportation, and the Port of Tacoma. Under her leadership, Tacoma raised graduation rates from 55% to 89%, increased the minimum wage, implemented paid sick leave, and passed universal background checks for gun ownership, paving the way for statewide action.
She is a proud graduate of Tacoma Public Schools. She also earned her B.A. from the University of Washington and an MBA from Clark-Atlanta University, a Historically Black College and University.
Democrat, Oregon 3rd
Albert was born in South Korea to an African-American soldier father and a Korean mother. After being the first in his family to graduate from college, Albert then served in the United States Army, where he was selected for the 3d U.S. Infantry, known as the “The Old Guard” and “Escort to the President” and the oldest continuously serving regiment in the army. He also worked in international trade and business, giving him a critical understanding of large industry, before moving on to law school. His last role before the campaign was as an academic dean at Portland Community College.
Albert cares deeply for his community in Oregon, moving to the area twice and choosing to settle down in the state with his wife and family. He is deeply invested in both service on government advisory committees & boards and volunteer work with non-governmental community organizations. He is an active member of the Democratic Party of Oregon and the Portland Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
In May of 2020, Albert lost the Democratic primary to incumbent Rep. Earl Blumenauer, garnering the second most votes in the district at around 17%.
Lisa Song Sutton
Republican, Nevada 4th
Lisa Song Sutton is a model, business executive, a Sotheby’s real estate broker, a volunteer, and an entrepreneur with multiple thriving businesses. Born in South Korea and moving to Arizona when she was about five, Sutton holds a degree in political science from the University of Arizona and a degree in law from the University of Miami. After graduation, Sutton moved to Las Vegas and worked as vice president of human resources at Atkinson & Associates P.C., a top law firm in the city.
In 2014, Sutton received the title of Miss Nevada United States for her many accomplishments, following years of experience in the print modeling industry. From there she moved on to commercial real estate, securing a position at Synergy Sotheby’s International Real Estate.
Following many years working and living in Nevada, while engaging with local children, businesses, and nonprofits, Sutton sought to represent her community at the congressional level. However, in June of 2020, Sutton fell short to Jim Marchant in the Republican primary, securing 15% of the vote.
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.|