WASHINGTON ― Andy Kim, a national security adviser to President Barack Obama who returned home to suburban New Jersey to challenge the biggest Donald Trump supporter in the Garden State’s congressional delegation, has won a tight race against GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur and made history in the process.
The Associated Press called the race on Wednesday afternoon, more than a week after the polls closed. Kim will become the first Korean-American Democrat to serve in Congress, which hasn’t had a lawmaker of Korean descent since 1999. (Republican Young Kim is locked in a too-close-to-call race in California; if she prevails, she would be the first Korean-American woman in Congress.)
The son of South Korean immigrants who was raised in the Philadelphia exurb of Marlton, Kim campaigned as a moderate and didn’t talk a lot about Trump in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, a sprawling district that spans the state from the banks of the Delaware River to the Atlantic shoreline. Trump carried the district by six percentage points in 2016.
In the largely white district, Kim faced campaign ads that painted him as a carpetbagger despite his home state roots. One mailer, sent by the state’s Republican Party, featured photos of fish heads on ice and Kim’s name printed in Chop Suey font.
As vote-counting continued after no winner emerged on election night, Kim declared victory last week when he gained a lead on MacArthur. Kim gathered most of his support in Burlington County ― the blueish suburbs of Philadelphia ― while MacArthur’s base was in Ocean County, the red part of the district that it home to a number of retirement communities.
MacArthur, a millionaire former insurance executive, moved into the district from northern New Jersey to successfully run in 2014 for the seat that another Republican, former Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jon Runyan, was giving up.
Along with emerging as a vocal Trump supporter, MacArthur played a key role in reviving House Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare, an effort that was narrowly defeated in the Senate in 2017. He was also the only New Jersey Republican to vote for Trump’s tax-cut bill, which because of the state’s notoriously high property taxes hit homeowners hard.
The 3rd district has swung back-and-forth in recent presidential races but has only sent a Democrat to the House once in modern history. Kim’s victory marks a significant shift in New Jersey’s delegation in the chamber. Just two years ago it was evenly divided, with six Republicans and six Democrats. When the new Congress convenes in January, there will just one New Jersey Republican ― Rep. Chris Smith ― left in the House.