BY JOE MARVILLI
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) will have a primary challenger for this year’s State election.
S.J. Jung, the president of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, announced his candidacy for the 16th District of the New York State Senate on May 13. Jung is the first challenger to enter the race in the district this year.
Jung was born in Korea, graduating from the Korea University. He moved to the U.S. with his family in 1986. Soon after he arrived in New York, Jung started his activism at the MinKwon Center as a volunteer. He served as its executive director from 1989 to 1993 and became president in 2006. In the last eight years, with Jung at the helm, the MinKwon Center registered 60,000 new voters and helped to build coalitions like the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy.
The candidate’s battle for immigration reform led him to fast for eight days at the National Mall in Washington D.C. last November, as a bill addressing the issue stalled in Congress.
“I believe I have the real life experience and leadership experience to provide solutions for Queens families,” he said.
Three issues are at the forefront of Jung’s campaign: raising the minimum wage, passing government reform and protecting quality of life in the district.
Jung said the minimum wage should be a floor, not a ceiling, with the State allowing cities to set it at a higher amount. For quality of life, Jung said that he wants to find the balance between development and protection, as he believes more community space and more open space is needed. As for Albany, he said that ethics reforms and campaign finance reforms are a top priority for him.
“I’ll be a reformer who fights against public corruption and restores faith in our government. Albany is corrupt,” he said. “I believe we need campaign finance reform ASAP, so we can reduce money in politics.”
As a small business owner, Jung said that micro-financing for small businesses and new rules against rent-gouging are other goals he would pursue if elected.
This is not Jung’s first run for elected office. In 2009, he ran for the 20th District seat in the City Council, narrowly losing in the Democratic primary. He said that experience led to some self-reflection and allowed him to learn from his mistakes for this time around.
“What I learned most from my experience in 2009 is how to bring people together around common issues and a common vision,” he said. “I think I had my own soul-searching after the election. I have gained a lot more inner strength. I have fire in my belly. I’m ready to go.”
Jung said that his campaign is looking to open its office and start fundraising shortly.
“If you believe S.J. Jung can be the new blood to revitalize our district, please vote for me,” he said. “We might have come in on a different boat, but now we are all in the same boat.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.