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Asian-American candidates diversify Ill. politics

October 13, 2009 5:41:46 AM PDT
For the first time, two Asian-Americans are running for statewide office in Illinois. Monday, suburban lawyer Steve Kim announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general. He joins Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat running for comptroller.

On February 2, 2010 of next year, voters will see Asian-American names on the statewide ballots of both major parties. The candidates are American-born, and they are expected to bring a long-awaited new perspective to the Illinois political discussion.

"I believe I represent a community that has not been represented in the political process in this state," said Kim.

Kim is an attorney and former Northfield, Ill. Trustee who is the first Asian-American to run in the statewide Republican primary. Steven Kim wants to run a leaner, more efficient attorney general's office in step with the tougher economic times.

"I intend to focus on protecting our most vulnerable citizens within the limits of the financial constraints within the state right now," Kim said.

Kim announced his candidacy at the offices of a Korean business association on the city's Northwest Side and was endorsed by U.S. Congressman Mark Kirk, who is running for the U.S. senate, and Republican state Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno.

"He will be appealing, even though he's Asian-American, to interests that everyone is concerned about," Radogno said.

"There are no insurmountable obstacles for Asian-Americans, or for that matter, people of other ethnicities," said Krishnamoorthi, who is of Indian ancestry.

On the Democrat side, Krishnamoorthi announced last summer that he is a candidate for state comptroller. The Harvard-educated lawyer is encouraged by U.S. census reports that Asian-Americans now comprise as much as 7 percent of the state's population. Their families originated in dozens of different Asian countries, with most of their number concentrated in Chicago and the collar counties.

The son of successful immigrant parents, Krishnamoorthi says running for public office is a logical next step.

"The next generation is now building on the accomplishments of the first generation, and they're entering public service in large numbers," Krishnamoorthi said.

Krishnamoorthi, who worked for the attorney general's office and the treasurer's office, lives in downstate Peoria. Steven Kim worked during the 1990's as a special assistant to former governor Jim Edgar. So, both candidates have experience as government staff members.


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