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Palisades Park Councilman Paul Kim. (Photo: Paul Kim).

Kim unseats Chung in Palisades Park Dem primary

Chung lost Bergen Democratic support for mayoralty

By David Wildstein, June 07 2022 10:17 pm

Palisades Park Mayor Christopher Chung, who mounted an off-the-line challenge for re-election to a second term after local Democrats denied him party support, has lost renomination to Councilman Paul Kim; Kim received 616 votes to Chung’s 451.

Kim will now face Republican Councilwoman Stephanie S. Jang in the general election.

Chung ran off the line for mayor in 2018 and ousted four-term incumbent James Rotundo by eight votes, 48.7% to 47.3%, in the Democratic primary.  He became the first Korean-American mayor of the Bergen County municipality, where an estimated 65% of the population is Korean-American.

Rotondo is still the Democratic municipal chairman in Palisades Park and a majority of the Democratic county committee seats are still occupied by white residents.  He backed Kim for mayor.

For a while in 2021, it looked like Chung was headed to the State Assembly and was unopposed for the Bergen County Democratic organization line for one of two open Assembly seats in the 37th legislative district.

But Chung ended his campaign after a State Comptroller’s Office investigation found that Palisades Park officials failed to follow a state law that capped sick leave payouts for municipal employees.

The other organization Assembly candidate, Teaneck Democratic Municipal Chair Alexandra Soriano-Taveras, also withdrew amid criticism that she called for a boycott of Jewish businesses at a rally in 2020.  Their replacements on the ticket, Shama Haider (D-Tenafly) and Ellen Park (D-Englewood Cliffs), now serve in the legislature.

Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano typically defers to municipal county committee organizations to determine which local candidates appear on the organization line.

Kim was re-elected to the council last year by a wide margin, but his running mate, Councilman JongChul Lee, lost to Jang by 24 votes despite Gov. Phil Murphy carrying Palisades Park by a 54%-45% margin. Kim won the Democratic primary in 2018 by 34 votes.

Chung was appointed to the borough council in 2014 after the resignation of Councilman Jason Kim.

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