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Queens Chronicle

Ron Kim running for public advocate

Assemblyman hops into crowded field for special election next year

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Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2018 10:30 am

Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) has thrown his hat into the crowded race for public advocate.

Announcing his candidacy on Monday, the lawmaker joins a list of more than 20 people running for the watchdog position, which incumbent Letitia James will vacate next year to become state attorney general.

Mayor de Blasio is expected to call a special election in early 2019 to fill the seat. Whoever wins would serve a term as public advocate that runs through the end of next year. There will be a primary and general election for the seat in September and November 2019, respectively.

Kim, the first and only Korean American to be elected to the state Legislature, has recently been a vocal critic of Amazon’s deal with New York to put one of its second headquarters in Long Island City, for which it is receiving nearly $3 billion in incentives.

“I think there’s no one that cares more about putting people’s interests over corporations than me in this race,” he told the Chronicle. “I think many of my colleagues are focused on the symptoms of a larger problem, which is that for too many years, we have focused on putting the interests of corporations over the interests of people.”

Kim has served in the Assembly since 2013 and before that worked in the offices of several city and state officials, and also at the Parkside Group, a lobbying firm closely tied to the Democratic Party.

Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, activist and journalist Nomiki Konst and Councilmen Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn) are among the candidates Kim will be competing with in the race.

He’ll also be vying against some of his Assembly colleagues — Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan), Michael Blake (D-Bronx) and Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn).

The position of public advocate has often been criticized as a stepping stone for higher office. Mayor de Blasio had the job, which has few official powers, before his current one.

Kim says he’s aiming to “transform” the negative perception that the position is useless. He wants to make the Public Advocate’s Office the largest government one in the country focused on canceling and writing down personal debts.

Consumer debt is expected to reach an all-time high this year.

According to the assemblyman, the rules are rigged against everyday people and small businesses.

“People don’t realize that the corporations, the bigger they are the more debt they can write down every single day, and they actually get a tax write up to do so,” the assemblyman said.

St. John’s University political science professor Brian Browne says that because of the crowded field, it will be a challenge for all of the public advocate candidates to make themselves sufficiently known to voters.

“How do they stand out? How do they differentiate from this crowded field?” he said to the Chronicle. “And I think Ron Kim, who is known in parts of Queens ... he has to ramp that up to run citywide.”

Public advocate candidates will have to collect 7,500 valid signatures to get on the ballot. With signature collections, it is standard for hopefuls to gather far more than the minimum because their opponents may try to kick them off the ballot by claiming their signatures are invalid.

Browne said he expects the process to shrink the field for public advocate because with the special election next year, the candidates will have far less time to gather them.

Kim is far from the only public advocate candidate to denounce the HQ2 deal. But he was against it before the plan for Long Island City became official, a fact Browne said could play to the assemblyman’s advantage.

“I think if opposition to Amazon is going to be the litmus test for public advocate then he passes that with flying colors,” the political science professor said.

He also suspects that Williams, the Brooklyn councilman, has an advantage in the race from having run in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor this year, for which he heavily campaigned in the city.

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