Veteran state Sen. Toby Stavisky, (D-Flushing), who has represented the 16th District for 14 years, will be challenged in the fall Democratic primary by at least one opponent, SJ Jung.
Jung announced Tuesday he is running as a reformer “who refuses to accept politics as usual.” Also considering throwing his hat in the ring is attorney John Messer, who ran against Stavisky in 2010 and 2012. He told the Chronicle he is seriously considering a run this year and will announce his decision soon.
Jung’s three main issues are helping low- and middle-income families, eliminating public corruption and protecting the quality of life for constituents. He also points to education, healthcare and seniors as major concerns.
He is against salary increases for state elected officials and said he will push for campaign finance and ethics reform to provide greater transparency.
Jung would like more open green spaces, something he calls “long overdue” for residents, and to revitalize the Flushing waterfront.
He says he is a lifelong Democrat and has no plans to join the Independent Democratic Caucus in Albany “unless there’s compelling reasons. I want to be a peacemaker; we need to unite.”
District 16 includes parts of Elmhurst, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Flushing, Rego Park, Forest Hills and Oakland Gardens. According to the Center for Urban Research, the district has a majority Asian population at 53 percent with whites at 24 percent.
But Jung, who was born in South Korea, says he doesn’t want Asians to vote for him because he’s Asian: “Look at my track record. Then vote for me.”
The candidate said he’s highly qualified for public office since he’s been a community advocate for years and “my leadership has been time-tested and I have real solutions.”
As an advocate he says he has reached out to the diverse community. “I am able to bring people together,” the candidate said.
Jung moved to the United States in 1986 and served for four years as executive director of YKASEC. The group’s name was changed to MinKwon Center in 2009. The nonprofit organization promotes education and offers language classes, a legal clinic and more to immigrants.
He recently stepped down as president of the center to pursue his candidacy.
Last fall, Jung took part in a Fast for Families near the Capitol Building in Washington, DC to promote immigration reform. In 2011, he received the city’s Ambassador Award for his contributions to bettering the lives of immigrants for more than 20 years.
Jung is also president of an import-export company he established in 2005.
In 2009, he ran for the District 20 City Council seat, losing by 183 votes in the Democratic primary to Yen Chou. Then-Republican Peter Koo beat Chou in the election.
Jung had no harsh words for Stavisky, instead saying, “I’ll build on her legacy with new vigor and blood. The time has come for a new chapter.”
John Gallagher, Stavisky’s campaign manager, offered the following statement on Jung’s candidacy:
“Sen. Stavisky is proud of her 14 years serving in the state Senate where she has been a powerful voice for middle-class families, for immigrant rights and for planned economic growth in Queens. She enjoys wide support from all corners of her diverse district and looks forward to continuing to serve her constituents.”