Joining a crowded field of contenders, John Choe, chief of staff for John Liu, announced Monday he wants to replace his boss in the City Council.
Although he is facing at least six other Democratic opponents in the race for Flushing’s District 20 City Council seat, Choe appears to be the anointed one. He was endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party on Tuesday morning and the candidate says he has Liu’s support, “100 percent.”
Liu could run for re-election but has decided to seek the city comptroller position. The Queens Democrats also endorsed Liu in his race.
Choe, 30, was born in Korea and raised in Australia. He moved to the United States with his family in the 1980s, settling in Staten Island.
His announcement was made at the Macedonia A.M.E. Church in Flushing, a historic black church, where he has garnered the support of its minister, the Rev. Nicholas Tweed. With the candidate were several community leaders of various ethnicities, signalling his wide-ranging support.
“John has a clear vision and a proven track record of service,” Tweed said. “He possesses all the qualities of a fine City Council member and has been active on every major issue affecting this community.”
Choe’s key issues are affordable housing, good schools and a fair share of city services. “Our community has played an important role as a center of religious freedom and cultural diversity,” he said. “These are the American values that our men and women in uniform are fighting to protect and what I hope to uphold as the next City Council member.”
So far, his opponents include two other Korean-American and two Chinese-American candidates. Although those running downplay the ethnic aspect, some believe they could split the Asian vote, allowing another candidate to win the primary.
Choe disputes that theory. “I am not only a Korean candidate,” he said. “Asians are not the majority vote in Flushing.”
He believes the more candidates the better, since it will give voters plenty of choices. However, he would not be surprised if some candidates decide to pull out of the race following the county endorsement.
Choe is stepping down this week as Liu’s chief of staff to run his campaign full-time. One of his first efforts will be in fundraising, since he admits needing more money to qualify for matching funds.
A graduate of SUNY Binghamton, Choe earned his master’s degree at the University of Chicago. He worked for the city Department of Finance, Corporation for Supportive Housing, city Rent Guidelines Board and the Rainbow Center, a shelter and community center for Korean women in Queens.
He joined Liu’s staff as legislative director in 2001 and also serves as co-president of the Mitchell-Linden Civic Association and is a board member of the Democratic Organization of Flushing.
Choe believes his experience working for Liu and as a civic leader puts him in the forefront. “I have connections with civic groups and my strength is in the community,” he said. “They know who I am and I will not need on-the-job training.”
He credits Liu as a great mentor, who taught him to bring people together and hold city agencies accountable. “I want to continue this,” Choe said. “And John has been very effective in bringing home the bacon for schools and social service agencies.”
He is an advocate of safety in neighborhoods, which includes increasing job opportunities for young people and making them a part of the community.
Choe also wants a sustainable community by maintaining the area’s quality of life. “Growth is not enough without providing additional classrooms, transit options and an improved infrastructure,” he said.
Perhaps the greatest thing he learned from Liu was bringing the community together. “Working together and looking for common solutions” are the keys, he said.
Because of his work experience, Choe believes he has a record of achievement, adding, “I’ll advocate from day one.”
Regarding mayoral control of schools, the candidate believes accountability is important, “but parents feel they don’t have a meaningful role and that’s not good. They are an integral part of the community.”
Working for Liu his entire eight years in office, Choe says he will follow his boss’s playbook in his quest for the City Council position — in part. “I have big shoes to fill, but I have my own style,” he concluded.