S.J. Jung is a man on a mission. He wants to get elected to the state Senate and make campaign finance and ethics reforms in Albany.
That’s a tall order for the 50-year-old, who has never held elected office. He ran in 2009 for the City Council seat in Flushing, losing by 183 votes in the Democratic primary. Now Jung is opposing incumbent Sen. Toby Stavisky, who has represented the 16th District for 14 years.
“I have an army of volunteers from all ethnicities,” Jung said during an interview with the Chronicle staff on Tuesday. “I have a multi-ethnic coalition and I am a longtime community advocate, not a politician.”
The candidate believes his chances are good to win the district seat, which now includes Woodside, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Flushing and Oakland Gardens.
He says he’s proud of turning a small nonprofit organization for Koreans to what is now the MinKwon Center in Flushing, where he served as president until stepping down to pursue his candidacy. Jung also runs an import-export company that he established in 2005.
His goal is to bring people together and believes he can do that by being an advocate: “I am an organizer. I can mobilize the community as a legislator.”
He favors a public-private partnership to create solutions and to provide better service to residents. “I know how to make a deal,” Jung said. “My campaign is about empowering the community.
“There are no party bosses behind me, but instead a grassroots campaign,” he added. “I’ll be my own man, if I win.”
Born in South Korea, he moved to the United States in 1986. “We came over in different boats, but we’re all in the same boat together,” Jung said, adding that he doesn’t want anyone to vote for him based on ethnicity.
The district now has a majority Asian population at 53 percent, with whites at 24 percent, according to the Center for Urban Research.
He is against salary increases for state elected officials until the minimum wage is substantially raised, wants to step up plans to revitalize the Flushing waterfront, streamline procedures for small businesses and favors a more equitable distribution of state funding to schools.
Jung recently spoke at a rally outside the former Pan Am Motel in Elmhurst, which has been turned into a homeless shelter, and said there is a lot to be concerned about.
“People were not informed, no hearing was held and everyone found out after the residents moved in,” he said Tuesday. “The location is also not right.”
He pointed to overwhelmed infrastructure nearby, including overcrowded schools in the area and a highly busy Elmhurst Hospital Center.
“But nearby residents shouldn’t place their misguided anger at the homeless,” Jung added. “The city needs to go back to the drawing board and tackle the root causes of homelessness.”
He wants a boost to the economy, more affordable housing and a minimum wage hike. “The income gap is at its highest level since the Great Depression,” Jung added.
In discussing his opponent in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary, Jung said he is running “with my policy ideas, not against her. The time has come for more new and vibrant leadership.”