Eastside interviews U.S. Congressman and Senate candidate Andy Kim (‘00)

Eastside interviews U.S. Congressman and Senate candidate Andy Kim (‘00)

U.S. Representative Andy Kim (‘00), a Cherry Hill High School East alumnus and prominent New Jersey Democrat, catapulted into the 2024 Senate race in early November, bringing a unique blend of personal experiences and unwavering dedication to public service.

Born to immigrant parents and married to an immigrant, Rep. Kim’s journey is marked by a commitment to his two sons and a genuine connection to the challenges faced by everyday Americans.

“I think there is a hunger for a new generation of leadership to step up in our country,” Rep. Kim told Eastside. “I’d be the fourth youngest Senator in the nation [and] I’d be the first Asian American ever elected to the United States Senate from the entire East Coast of America.”

But Rep. Kim would not just be breaking barriers for Asian Americans and young public servants. He would be sending a compelling message to New Jersey voters that wealth and connections are not prerequisites for making a significant impact in American politics.

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“I don’t come from a rich family or a well-connected political family,” Rep. Kim said. “I think people just want regular people — public servants — in these positions. Politics [should not] solely be for the elites in our society, [and] I think I can bring that kind of change.”

To better understand his vision for New Jersey and America, Eastside interviewed Rep. Kim, covering topics ranging from his extensive congressional experience to personal preferences like his favorite ice cream flavor. Here are some key highlights from the discussion.

Q: What do you remember from your time at Cherry Hill East?

A: I remember it so vividly. I can walk the halls in my mind… I remember the people, I remember my friends, I remember the teachers… I’m still hanging out with some of my closest friends from high school, causing trouble where we can.

I did a lot of music while I was there. That was such a huge part of my life… I [also] remember Mr. Carr’s English class, [where] we would do a Shakespeare play. It was fun spending that time, memorizing the lines and practicing. It was cool to see some of my classmates in different ways. That was one of the most memorable moments of my time there.

Q: What do you offer New Jersey that other Senate candidates do not?

A: The first thing that I offer is direct experience. I have been a public servant my whole career. Every minute of my life I have served this country. I am the only declared candidate who has run and won elections. I know how to be able to win, I know how to be able to deliver.

Right now, we have such a crazy and chaotic moment in this world. Here in America, I’m somebody who was able to appeal to voters across the political spectrum. I’m a Democrat who won a district that Trump won twice. But beyond that, I’m somebody who now has over five years of legislative experience in Congress. I have bills that I have passed into law that are now going to be helping a lot of Americans, including efforts to lower prescription drug costs, health care costs, provide additional food supply and other [things] to Americans that are struggling right now.

Hopefully people can see me as a person of integrity at a time when I think people [have] lost a lot of trust and faith in our government.

Q: What will the transition from Congressman to Senator look like?

A: If I have the great honor of winning the primary and then winning the general, the transition [from Congressman to Senator] will hopefully be seamless.

Instead of [representing] a congressional district of 780,000 people, I’d now be representing a state of 9 million people. I’d certainly have to scale up and build a team all over the state. But, I already have that experience of building a team; I know what kind of qualities I’m looking for.

I can immediately be ready on day one to hit the ground running.

Q: Does the American Dream still exist?

A: Not for everybody. The idea of it is something we should aspire towards. [But] we live in a time of the greatest [economic] inequality in our nation’s history, and it’s getting worse and worse… I think that there still is some economic mobility, [and that] there always are going to be stories of innovators and others being able to build out.

I’m a father of a first grader and a third grader coming up through the public school system here in New Jersey, and I want to believe that they can have and their generation can have extraordinary opportunities. But it’s challenging and this political climate and the divisions in our nation are making it harder and harder for folks to be able to achieve that.

Q: What is something you wished more people knew about you or your campaign?

A: I want people to know who I am and what drives me. I am a career public servant. I’m a three-term servant who won tough races. I’m also a father of two little boys, whose future I’m terrified about right now, given all the craziness in the world. That’s what I’m fighting for. I call my kids my North Star. They are who I calibrate the rest of my life to. Everything I do is to try and stay steady and help my kids. I want people to know that.

Q: What is your message to first-time voters?

A: First of all, make sure that they register to vote. Make sure that they know about their ability to vote on Election Day. It was not something that I thought about when I was younger. I wish I did better at that. I would encourage everyone to register, if they’re able to, and to vote.

Q: Are there any leaders that you look up to, and why?

A: I’ve been thinking about John Lewis, a civil rights leader, a lot lately… I had the great honor to be able to call him a colleague of mine… I looked up to him as a kid, [and] I could never have imagined that one day I would get to work with him and learn from him. He taught me about courage. He taught me that important things don’t come easy. Sometimes you have to put yourself out there.

John Lewis was an ordinary man in extraordinary times. He was a regular guy, he didn’t have superpowers, [and] he wasn’t a super wealthy guy. All of us have that capacity for courage. It’s hard, but it’s worth fighting for.

Q: We’ve seen on your social media and from your campaign emails that you share a LEGO collection with your two sons. What are your favorite LEGO sets?

A: One of the things I’m most known for now is building a LEGO Millennium Falcon set with my little boys. We’re obsessed with Legos. I’ve always been. In particular, we’re working our way through all the Star Wars sets. They’re all over the place [in our house].

Q: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

A: The cone is important. The flavor is important too, but I kind of like all ice creams. Not a big mint fan. A good strawberry ice cream, I love. [There’s also] something really fundamental about cookies and cream, or vanilla and Oreos, or vanilla with cookies, in a waffle cone.

The election for Senator is contentious, and Rep. Kim faces tough competition. Incumbent Senator Menendez, who faces federal corruption charges, and New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy are both running against him. But Rep. Kim stands out. He feels the pain of struggling Americans and has a strong commitment, proven by his congressional track record, to fight the good fight for progressive policies.

“My wife and I had to make major decisions about our lives. When to get married, when to have kids, when to buy a house,” Rep. Kim said. “We had to decide and factor in the debt that we carried… I want people to be able to do what they want to do and have the ability to take risks.”

Rep. Kim also lives to create impact. He recognizes that the American Dream doesn’t exist for all Americans. However, through his efforts to address the mental health and opioid crisis, improve American infrastructure and technology, and pass other laws to support Americans, Rep. Kim hopes to revive and strengthen the alluring promise of the American Dream for everyone.

“I still believe in this nation. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I didn’t,” he said.

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