Spurred by recent acts of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) has started a new political action committee to help AAPI and other candidates of color to run for public office.
When I first ran for Congress, insiders told me I can’t win because my majority white district wouldn’t vote for an Asian American or a candidate of any color,” said Kim, who became New Jersey’s first Asian American congressman in 2018. “With the help of many people, we proved them wrong, and I want to now work with you to lift up AAPI and other candidates of color all over the country.”
Kim’s In Our Hands PAC will help recruit, train and support candidates from local to national office.
“I’m often asked what those in AAPI and other minority communities can do to combat hate, systemic racism, and other barriers that stand in our way,” Kim said. “There’s no solution that’s possible without engagement. If AAPI and other minorities don’t fight for a seat at the table, we’ll never have a say in the solutions necessary.”
Congress currently has two U.S. Senators and 16 members of the U.S. House of Representatives of Asian descent. Earlier this year, Kamala Harris, whose mother emigrated from India, was sworn in as Vice President.
In 2019, Jersey Promise, an Asian American advocacy group, estimated that Asian Americans represent more than 10% of the state’s population, but just 1% of local, county and state elected officials.
In New Jersey, where the state’s Asian population is rapidly growing, the legislature has just three Asian American legislators: Senate Majority Conference Leader Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City), and Assemblyman Sterley Stanley (D-East Brunswick).
With the candidacies of former Montgomery Mayor Sadaf Jaffer, former Tenafly Councilwoman Shama Haider and former Englewood Cliffs Councilwoman Ellen Park for State Assembly in 2021, the number could double, although Haider and Park face fiercely contested primary challenges.
Jaffer and Haider could become the first Muslim members of the New Jersey Legislature, and the first Pakistani American.
“We can win seats at the table if we realize that the power to make change is in our hands,” Kim explained. “This PAC will aim to serve as a catalyst for change and support those eager and ready to make it.”
The In Our Hands PAC was originally formed one week before the 2020 election and raised $20,000 during the last week of 2020, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Records show that the International Association of Sheet Metal Workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Credit Union National Association PAC, and Theodore Kim, a shipping company executive from Los Angeles, each contributed $5,000.
No expenditures have been made.
Kim, a former national security staffer in the Obama White House, has proven himself to be a prodigious fundraiser. Since becoming a candidate for Congress in 2017, Kim has reported raising nearly $13.8 million.
Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove) became the first Asian American — and so far, only Korean American — to serve in the Assembly when he won an open seat in 1995, and the first to serve in the State Senate when he won a special election convention in 2001. Upendra Chivukula (D-Franklin) became the first Indian American to serve in the legislature when he was elected in 2001. Mukherji became the third in 2013.