Can This Man Beat Lisa Madigan? - NBC Chicago
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Can This Man Beat Lisa Madigan?



    Steve Kim won't take the bait.

    The GOP's nominee for AG, and the first Asian-American nominated for statewide office in Illinois, Kim won't say his opponent Lisa Madigan is too clouted to be touched.

    He'll just say it's challenging to run against an opponent with “a wide network and connections.”

    Not that he's shrinking from the fight. And not that he hasn't criticized Madigan before.

    Last month, he took issue with Madigan when she refused to join other state attorneys general in a lawsuit challenging President Obama’s health care reform bill.

    “I do have grave concerns about the constitutionality matter of it, and also the policy matter of it,” Kim told me in an interview recently. “This is the first time the federal government has forced people to buy a product from a private company. I think it violates the commerce clause of the constitution.”

    So if you don't know Kim -- and odds are, you don't know Kim -- know this: He's a 39-year-old attorney from Northbrook, and he got his start in politics as a special assistant for Asian affairs under Gov. Jim Edgar. In that role, he participated in several overseas trade missions.

    As a lawyer, Kim continues to work in international business: he just returned from a two-week trip to South Korea, during which he worked with a Korean company to locate a glass-coating factory in Chicago.

    As a globe-trotting lawyer, Kim hears the jokes about Illinois’ corrupt politicians, and thinks they’re a drag on the state’s economy. When Rod Blagojevich makes a fool of himself on David Letterman, executives who decide whether to do business here are watching.

    “An important aspect of this office has to do with public corruption,” Kim said. “I consider corruption a tax on the people. People are hesitant to come here because of the corruption. We have a federal prosecutor looking after that, but there’s no reason assistant state attorneys general can’t assist him.”

    Corruption isn't Kim's only challenge.

    Asian-Americans have never held political power in Illinois. Besides Kim, the state’s only Asian candidate is another Republican, Hamilton Chang, who is running for the state house in the north suburbs.

    “I think that is a significant step,” he said. “We not only have an Asian-American on the Republican ticket, but a Hispanic-American, Robert Enriquez for secretary of state. Some people may be skeptical and say ‘They’re putting up these tokens,’ but I think our plans and policies are in step with Asian-Americans, on issues of job creation and economics.”

    One reason Asian-Americans are unrepresented is gerrymandering, Kim says. Chicago’s Chinatown, he points out, is divided among three legislative districts. That’s one reason he supports the Fair Map Amendment, which would assign the task of redistricting to an independent, non-partisan commission.

    “I’m getting a lot of support from Asian-Americans,” Kim said. “Asian-Americans have always been labeled a ‘model minority.’ But we’ve also been a community that’s not been part of a political system.”