Saturday, Nov. 13, Democratic congressional candidate David Kim spoke at the Commonwealth Auditorium in the Sadler Center. Kim is running to represent California’s 34th district in the House of Representatives.
During the one-and-a-half-hour event, which the Asian American Student Initiative organized with support from the Government Department, Kim discussed his experience as an openly queer Korean American progressive running in a district with one of the largest Korean American populations in the country.
California utilizes a top-two primary system, in which candidates of all parties compete in the same primary election, with the top two candidates who recieve the most votes advancing to the general election. Kim is currently facing incumbent democratic candidate Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D) in a rematch.
After growing up during the 1992 Los Angeles riots — a period of civil unrest following the acquittal of LAPD officers charged with using excessive force in the arrest of Rodney King — Kim was inspired to work to better represent his community. Many Korean American-owned businesses were damaged during the riots.
As one of the few Korean American students in his community growing up, Kim said he made a point by running for student government positions. Kim also works as an immigration attorney and a member of the MacArthur Park Neighborhood Council, where he also served as president.
“Even though I am the one that they make fun of for smelling like kimchi or garlic… You know what? Forget about that, I think we need representation,” Kim said.
Kim cited his Asian American identity as a primary source of motivation. However, Kim’s view of representation extends beyond only working for others who are similar, but also involves working for every member of a community.
“The bigger and greater element is this deeper awareness of what where all of us are in this world, in this place, in the society and understanding that we didn’t choose what families we were born into, what classes you were born into, what background, communities, or levels of education,” Kim said in reference to his vision for community activism.
Kim first ran for the House of Representatives position during the General Election in 2020 against incumbent Gomez. Gomez outraised Kim by nearly seven times the amount in 2020. Kim noted that he does not take “special interest money” and instead runs a grassroots campaign.
“So my opponent, for example, he takes more corporate PAC and special interests money than a majority of members in Congress,” Kim said. “He’s like one of the top, and that would even be like Lockheed Martin, military defense contractors, from private prison, from big pharma, … from Pfizer.”
According to campaign disclosures, Gomez, a former labor organizer, received contributions from various labor political action committees, Pfizer, the nonprofit progressive PAC ActBlue and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. Lockheed Martin, a leading defense corporation, contributed $2,000 to his campaign in 2021.
For the 2022 cycle, Kim received $250 from a local Los Angeles PAC, the East Area Progressive Democrats. Kim did not receive any PAC contributions in 2020. Despite Kim’s Korean American background, he did not receive an endorsement from the first Korean American Democrat elected to Congress, Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey. After Andy Kim endorsed Gomez, David Kim cited bullying and incumbency advantages as factors in the endorsement. Vice President Kamala Harris, a former senator from California, as well as the first Asian American and African American vice president, also endorsed Gomez.
Kim also spoke about a conversation he had previously had after the 2020 election with Rep. Andy Kim, when he was informed about a congressional tradition where incumbent members of Congress go up to each other and request endorsements before any challenger enters the race.
“Andy, in the last cycle, told me, ‘David, if you run again in 2022, let me know, and I won’t give Jimmy my endorsement.’” Kim said. “I did, I texted him, I called him, but he still endorsed him.”
Attendees of the event reflected on Kim’s conversation with the College community.
“I thought the event went well,” Director of AASI Jeffrey Gu ’25 said. “This event was very intentionally catered towards people that are interested in coming, so everybody that was here I hope had a good time.”
Gu also thanked AASI’s deputy director Sean Nguyen ’25, who moderated the Q&A session.
Anshu Sharma Ph.D ’26 said he also appreciated David Kim’s willingness to come and speak, particularly on the basis of economic issues and challenges facing outsider candidates. He expressed desire to see more events similar to this which showcase the representation of people of color at the College.
“To me, this is a fundamental part of what the College is about,” Sharma said.
Other attendees expressed similar remarks regarding their appreciation for Kim’s visit to the College, and agreed that there should be similar events hosted in the future.
“I’m really appreciative that he had the time to come down to speak with the William and Mary students,” attendee Prestin Tran ’26 said. “I think he offers really, really good insight into what congressional campaigning is like.”
As of Monday, Nov. 14, 76% of the votes for California’s 34th district have been counted. The Associated Press has not called the race. Gomez is currently leading with 52.4% of the votes to Kim’s 47.6%.