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Palisades Park Mayor Christopher Chung. (Photo: Facebook.)

Palisades Park Democrats decline to back mayor for re-election

Chung will run off the line against Paul Kim in June primary

By David Wildstein, March 10 2022 10:44 am

The Palisades Park Democratic County Committee will not support the re-election of Mayor Christopher J. Chung and instead voted to support Paul Kim, a councilman, as their mayoral candidate.

Chung told the New Jersey Globe that he would run off the line in the June 7 Democratic primary after losing the county committee vote 11-3.

“I am still running for re-election,” Chung said.  “I will have my full ticket to run with me.”

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 Republican Stephanie S. Jang, by 24 votes.  Kim won the Democratic primary in 2018 by 34 votes.

Jang won despite Gov. Phil Murphy carrying Palisades Park by a 54%-45% margin in 2021.

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

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