Ron Kim declares victory in acrimonious Assembly reelection bid

“Ron has been an unabashed leader on progressive issues – and he has never left public safety as his No. 1 priority,” state Sen. John Liu said at his victory party.

Assembly Member Ron Kim, left, celebrates with state Sen. John Liu, right, at his victory party.

Assembly Member Ron Kim, left, celebrates with state Sen. John Liu, right, at his victory party. Annie McDonough

After seeing razor-thin victory margins last cycle, Democratic Assembly Member Ron Kim declared victory in his reelection bid on Tuesday with a (slightly) more comfortable margin than he’s been used to lately.

With more than 97% of scanners reporting, and a little over 3000 votes counted, Kim led Democratic primary challenger Yi Andy Chen by more than 400 votes shortly after polls closed on Tuesday night. 

Walking into Flushing’s American Adult Day Care Center to supporters and volunteers chanting his name, Kim called his victory a win for the middle class. “We have a crisis – not only in Flushing, but the rest of America – we have a shrinking middle class. And the rich are getting richer, and the people at the bottom are stuck in the social ladder because they can't afford to live in places like Flushing, or New York City,” Kim said.

With a particular focus on public safety, Chen criticized Kim as too progressive throughout the race. “It’s a win for the people,” said state Sen John Liu, a vocal surrogate on the campaign trail,, when asked whether Kim’s victory signified a larger win for progressives. “Ron has been an unabashed leader on progressive issues – and he has never left public safety as his No. 1 priority.”

Kim, a progressive Democrat who in 2012 became the first Korean American person elected to the state Legislature, has faced close elections before. In 2022, he only won both the Democratic primary and the general election by just a couple of percentage points. This year, he adjusted some rhetoric to appeal to more moderate voters.

The 40th Assembly District is more than two-thirds Asian American, with a significant Chinese American population. The area is represented by Democrats in both the City Council and both chambers of the state Legislature, but Republican candidates have seen strong showings there.

Chen, a former City Council candidate who immigrated to Queens from China at 13, has raised an impressive, if eyebrow-raising, cash haul. Chen campaigned heavily on public safety issues and characterized Kim as soft on crime. Chen carried endorsements from the Police Benevolent Association, as well as endorsements from a handful of Chinese American business and community associations in the district. 

“A well-funded Chinese American candidate running on public safety with police union endorsements, on paper, might be the hardest possible primary challenger (that) an incumbent, progressive Korean legislator in Flushing has,” said political consultant Trip Yang, who was not involved in the race. “It was competitive, and it was viewed as competitive the whole time.”

Kim was endorsed by much of the Democratic establishment and major labor unions. Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Eric Adams spoke at one of Kim’s rallies, offering what appeared to be an endorsement, though Adams said Tuesday that it wasn’t a “formal endorsement” when asked about Kim’s record on public safety. “I went out to show my support of some of the things that Assembly Member Kim assisted us on,” Adams said, adding that he would stand with any candidate who is going to carry out the mission of making New York City more affordable.

Chen accused Kim of supporting defunding the NYPD, prompting Kim – who has been critical of law enforcement responses to hate crimes in the past – to highlight more recent funding for the NYPD in his district. “Public safety was one of the top issues, but it's not just a simple issue,” Kim told City & State at his victory party, noting that building good relationships with local precincts is important, as is supplying jobs and affordable housing. “It’s easy to just say, ‘Arrest everyone, keep everyone safe.’ That’s an easy way to deliver safety. It’s much harder to build long-term solutions to keep everybody safe, and I want to hold myself and other Democrats accountable to make sure we can deliver on solutions.”

Dao Yin, another candidate in the Democratic primary, previously ran unsuccessfully for City Council and Queens borough president. Yin, who also immigrated to New York from China, has lagged in fundraising, reporting bringing in roughly $28,000 in donations, but The New York Times reported this week on potential fraud in Yin’s campaign finance disclosures as he sought public matching funds.

Chen brought in roughly $349,000 to Kim’s $261,000, according to the state’s campaign finance website. 

The race grew somewhat bitter as the candidates raced towards the finish line in the final days of the campaign. On Sunday, Chen’s and Kim’s campaigns both filed police reports accusing each other’s teams of harassment and assault against volunteers. In his victory speech, Kim acknowledged and thanked his opponents, however. “It doesn’t matter if I agree with you or disagree with you, I want to acknowledge any candidate – including my two (opponents) – for having that courage to step into the limelight.”