U.S. Rep. Andy Kim fielded questions that ran the gamut from gun control to campaign financing at his first “Town Hall” meeting in Mercer County.
Kim (D-3) spoke to about 30 constituents at the Feb. 23 meeting at the Boys & Girls Club in Lawrence Township. The meeting sought to introduce Kim to his new constituents.
Kim inherited Lawrence Township, Hightstown Borough, East Windsor Township, Hamilton Township and Robbinsville Township in the redistricting process following the 2020 U.S. Census results. The towns were moved from the 12th Congressional District.
“I never dreamed of going into politics. It’s not something that I ever thought about doing,” Kim told the attendees.
Kim was a career diplomat who worked under Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, until his election to represent the 3rd Congressional District in 2018.
“This ‘Town Hall’ meeting encapsulates the politics that I practice. I try to hold ‘Town Hall’ meetings once a month. My office is hyper-focused on the community. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help,” he said.
Kim said he approaches his job with humility. He believes in the type of politics where there may be a difference of opinion, but also one in which people can engage in discussion with civility and respect.
“My job is to serve you. I take pride in being a workhorse, not a show horse,” Kim said.
Kim outlined the issues that he had been working on. He is interested in national security issues, and serves as the ranking member on the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
He is concerned about the mental health issues facing military personnel and veterans, as well as civilians. Addressing mental health issues is one of his priorities, he said.
“We have to step up better for our youth, no matter the politics. We have to try to incentivize people to go into the mental health field and become mental health providers,” Kim said.
On national security, Kim said he was in Ukraine on the eve of the Russian ground invasion in 2022. The United States has been supporting Ukraine without sending in troops, he said.
“They are asking for help and support. A lot of European nations have stepped up. I do believe there will be consequences if Ukraine loses [the war],” he said.
Turning to gun violence, Kim acknowledged that solving it will be “tough.”
“The conversation has become so polarized. You have to have guns or you don’t. I think there is some room [for a balance],” he said.
He said he introduced a bill that would require prospective gunowners to undergo a mental health screening, and to be trained and licensed before they could obtain a weapon. A mental health screening would filter out those who are not fit to own a gun, he said.
Asked about finances, Kim said he receives an allocation to hire staff for his office and for general operations. It is separate from the fundraising needed to pay for a political election campaign, he said.
While it is necessary to raise money for an election campaign, he believes there is too much money in politics.
Kim commented on the “sheer amount of money” that is spent on political campaigns. He said he does not accept campaign contributions from political action committees. He does accept money from individual contributors.
Wrapping up the Town Hall event, Kim told attendees that he hopes to represent them for a long time, but he needs their help.
“I know we have a lot of challenges as a country. I do believe the biggest threat is not a dictatorship, it is apathy. If you give up, if you disengage, you are letting others make decisions for you,” Kim said.
New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District encompasses nearly all of Burlington County, and parts of Mercer and Monmouth counties.