Meet the AAPI Staffers Behind the 2020 Presidential Candidates: Phil Kim
AAPIs are more engaged in the political process than ever before, representing our community at all levels, including going into the 2020 Presidential elections. Leading up to the first-ever AAPI Democratic Presidential Forum, we’re featuring AAPI staffers on some of the 2020 Presidential campaigns. We recognize that, as role models and leaders, they are paving the way toward a more diverse and inclusive America.
For this feature, we had the chance to sit down with Phil Kim from the Cory Booker campaign.
Meet Phil Kim
Phil Kim is the State Director for Cory Booker's presidential campaign in Nevada. Prior to this role, he was the Associate Director of Community Engagement at the DNC. He got his start in AAPI outreach as a volunteer for Korean Americans for Organizing, followed by working as an intern with CAPAC, and serving as a press assistant in U.S. Senator Tim Kaine's Washington, DC office. He continued organizing the AAPI community with Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2015-2016.
Why is it important for AAPIs to engage with this election cycle?
Representation matters! When campaigns hire AAPI organizers and staffers, we get to talk with one another rather than being talked at. And when we’re hired for senior leadership positions, we can actually make a difference for our community. The more we understand and discuss issues that are important to our community, the better we can work to organize, elevate, and find solutions for them in a real way.
Second, the more we engage AAPIs this cycle, the more our communities get an opportunity to learn more about political organizing and why it’s important: to ensure our seat at the table, have our voices heard, and expand the AAPI talent pool. Our community is the fastest growing racial group in the country. There are accomplishments to be proud of, including having a record-high 20 Members of Congress or the most AAPI candidates to run for office across any level. But in terms of representation, the community only has a small slice of the pie, and there is more to be done at the highest levels of government and political campaigns. By engaging AAPIs in this election cycle, we also get to focus on building a pipeline of future AAPI organizers, elected officials, and community leaders.
What does working on a presidential campaign mean to you?
I feel incredibly lucky -- this is not just an opportunity to be a part of a historic moment on a national scale, but it’s also my opportunity to pay it forward. These roles aren’t normally filled by people who look like me. And I don’t take that for granted. That means using this platform to be inclusive: knowing that someone took a chance on me, it’s important to open the doors for other talented AAPI staffers like Cheska Perez, our State Data Director, and Allen Chen, our Regional Political & Organizing Director. Being able to live this out as a core campaign value is something I’m truly grateful for. It shouldn’t end with me, however, and it’s important to me to think about the next wave of leaders who can step up into these roles and be set up to succeed.
Additionally, 2016 inspired in me a commitment to work for a candidate who elevates the voices of people of color; Cory uses his platform to spotlight issues important to our communities. He gets it. Before I got into campaigns, I had always looked for the role model in politics who could speak to a young version of me, and it wasn't easy to find so I’m always grateful for opportunities to work for candidates like Cory.
Beyond the candidate I support, this is also meaningful because along the way I’ve met so many great leaders who are on the frontlines of this work and representing so well on behalf of the community, both in the electoral and the issues spaces. I’ve learned to look up to a lot of AAPI leaders and I’m just glad that I can contribute to this ecosystem in small ways. Right now, the media is beginning to take note of our potential as voters and organizers, but they’re only beginning to scratch the surface. When this election cycle is done, the hope and the goal is that as a community we are continuing to be respected and included in all conversations and on the frontlines of making change.
Our voices matter! AAPIs deserve to be heard. Raise your voice on September 7-8 at the AAPI Community Action Summit and the first ever AAPI Presidential Forum. This is a great opportunity to engage with the issues facing our community and hear from 2020 Presidential Candidates. For tickets and information, click here.