Gim challenges Kim for Assembly seat

By Alex Robinson

Phil Gim is taking another crack at state Assemblyman Ron Kim’s (D-Flushing) seat.

The Flushing businessman and Republican candidate is challenging Kim for the second straight election.

Kim became the first Korean American elected to the state Legislature when he convincingly beat Gim with 67 percent of the vote in 2012.

Gim is facing another uphill battle in a district that is overwhelmingly Democratic, but said he likes his chances better this time. The candidate said he expects this election will be more about local issues as there will be no presidential candidates on the ballot.

“It comes back down to a local rather than national level,” he said in an interview. “It will be helpful for me because we can address local issues a lot more.”

Education has become one of the central issues of the campaign as Kim recently voiced his support for a piece of legislation that would expand the admissions criteria at the city’s specialized high schools. The bill would change the admissions test criteria to include students’ grade point averages and school attendance records instead of just the results of a written test.

The debate over the issue has become racially charged and many parents in the Asian community have voiced their concern over expanding the test criteria as they think their children were targeted by the proposed legislation.

Even though 70 percent of the city’s students are black and Hispanic, only 5 percent of the students in specialized schools are black and 7 percent are Hispanic, according to the city Department of Education. More than half of the students in specialized high schools are Asian and 26 percent are white.

Gim has said he supports the test.

“What we really need is to raise standards on those schools and districts that are underperforming,” he said. “We have to really focus resources on how to raise their standards to level the playing field for everybody.”

Kim, who sits on the Assembly’s Education committee, said that while he supports changing the criteria, any changes must come from the community.

“There is no way one test can determine the character and capability of one to succeed, but I do believe change must come from the ground up,” Kim said.

Kim has far out-raised Gim, raking in $48,360 since Oct. 7, with more than $130,000 on hand, according to campaign finance filings. Gim only raised $998 during that same period and has just over $20,000 on hand.

The freshman lawmaker, who has been endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and good government group Citizens Union, heralded his record of working within the community as a bridge builder and a compromise broker between Korean elders and other parts of the community.

“It’s been a privilege to help seniors get affordable housing and helping get their problems resolved,” he said. “I want to continue being their fighter in Albany.”

Kim first immigrated to the United States from South Korea when he was just 7 years old. He was raised in Flushing and graduated from the Riverdale Country Day School before going on to receive degrees from Hamilton College and Baruch. He worked in former Gov. David Patterson’s administration before landing a gig as a consultant with the Parkside Group.

A Chinese American, Gim first immigrated to Florida in 1962. His family moved to New York City and he grew up attending public schools, including Brooklyn Tech. He moved to northern Flushing in 1986 and has lived in the neighborhood with his family since.

Gim has helped to run his wife’s family’s business, Budget Convenience Stores, a chain of more than eight shops, for the last three years. He has also worked at the city Board of Elections since 2010 as a monitor at poll sites.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobi‌nson@‌cnglo‌cal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

More from Around New York