Meet the District 6 candidates: Isaac Kim

Isaac Kim, your normal neighbor guy running for City Council.

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On sunny weekends, Isaac Kim and his wife take their dog, Billie, to the Sepulveda Basin Park in the San Fernando Valley to enjoy the weather and watch their dog crash into a pile of leaves.

As the only park in the neighborhood, it is always overcrowded. The lack of green space is one issue Kim sees in the district and wishes to change. Kim sees this lack of green space as an issue he’d like to change - just one of the concerns that have led him to run in the special election to fill the vacancy in Los Angeles Council District 6.

“I love where I live, and it is the place I call home,” Kim said. “But the district is going through a tough time, and I think the citizens have had enough political schemes. I think it’s when a private citizen, who is really from the area, brings in a different perspective and makes actual changes.”

Isaac Kim is a 34 years old Asian American, a second-generation immigrant from Korea, and a small skin-care business owner. He graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Economics. Kim worked in operations and forecasting for international cosmetics companies such as L’Oréal, Armani Beauty, and YSL.

In the first 34 years of his life, politics was a field he’d never envisioned himself in; it wasn’t until the Nury Martinez scandal Kim decided to stand out and make the district better.

Kim isn’t native to Los Angeles. He was born in Cupertino and moved six times before he was 10 years old.

Growing up, Kim was a competitive fencer and part of the U.S. World Championship and national teams. Kim gained a broader perspective on life from this experience as an athlete. He regularly traveled to see the world and interacted with people from different cultures. At a very young age, he learned to deal with losing, also the importance of practice and hard work as the only way to succeed.

In October, LA Times published a leaked tape of former City Council President and Council District (CD) 6 Councilmember Nury Martinez. The tape captured the conversation between Martinez and other Latin council members. They discussed consolidating and preserving the Latino seats in the council from Black candidates. The recording also included their racist remarks toward other colleagues and Councilmember Mike Bonin’s son.

The audio sparked outrage and led to Martinez’s resignation, which left a vacancy in the council for CD6. Therefore, the L.A. City Council will hold a special primary election on April 4, 2023, to fill the seat.

When he heard about the leaked tape, Kim’s reaction was anger, not particularly about their words, but their actions.

“What motivated me to run to present CD6 is the corruption in the system,” Kim said. “For years, politics have been occupied by selfish politicians to gain power and to try to get reelected. And they are not here for the people.”

“We’ve seen the same type of people in power and elected, and citizens complain that they don’t see changes. It’s because we’ve had individuals who watch their political self-interests before the people,” Kim said.

Environmental issues are Kim’s priority, and his parents heavily influence that stance. He describes them as environmentalists, advocating sustainability and renewable energy. Their small business California Water Conservation, contracts with the government to install water-saving toilets for residents.

“I tell people I was wearing Patagonia recycled shirts way before it was cool,” Kim joked. Patagonia is a clothing company that uses recycled fabrics and has programs implemented to lower the ecological impact of making their products. “Just because my parents loved anything sustainable and better for the environment.”

Though Kim has no political experience, he is very transparent about his strengths and weaknesses. One thing Kim highlighted about himself is his identity as a “normal guy.”

“I am just a normal citizen living here and a normal voter like everyone else. I observe the city from the level of a normal guy and struggle through the issues they face with them at the same time,” Kim said. “One big issue in CD6 is the lack of protected bike lanes. I bike a lot, and I feel the danger when a car comes from behind.”

Being a first-time politician is an advantage and a disadvantage for Kim. Without the recognition, it was hard for him to reach the audience. One of Kim’s weaknesses is his rawness in politics; however, knowing his shortcomings, Kim doesn’t view them as an embarrassment. Instead, he openly admits his lack of knowledge of certain issues and seeks advice from experts.

In the climate and environment part of his platform, Kim received assistance from the California Green New Deal Coalition, a network of environmental advocates, to identify the issues and improvements for CD6.

“I wrote the environment platform for Isaac,” Sim Bilal said, a 21-year-old campaign volunteer, also an environmental activist in L.A. “My organization and I talked to all the candidates, and Isaac stood out. Some politicians pretend like they know everything, and a lot of times, they just get into trouble. I hear some criticism people talk about like ‘Isaac doesn’t know anything,’ but more importantly, is his willingness to learn and to listen.”

Homelessness is another issue Kim focuses on, and even before the election, Kim found homelessness an issue and partnered his grooming business with a local church, donating part of every order to help someone experiencing homelessness. He also donates cleaning supplies and collaborates with the church to provide hot water showers for those who need them.

Council District Six consists of Arleta, Van Nuys, Sun Valley, North Hollywood, Lake Balboa, North Hills, and Panorama City. The total population of District 6 is about 280,000 people and comprises 71% of Latinos, 15% of White, 9% of Asians, and 3% of Black people.

With involvement in the community, Kim is also winning the hearts of the citizens.

One of the volunteers, Keshaw Huang, a 24-year-old Chinese American resident in CD6, recently graduated from Columbia University. Huang befriended Kim first, then decided to help him in the election.

“The first time we met Isaac knocking on my door for the signatures to put his name on the ballot. And so that’s how we got to talk,” the volunteer in charge of strategy and operations for Kim’s campaign said. “It was exciting because he was the only candidate that came to my door to talk about the platform and what they were running for. So it was very, I guess, nice to meet Isaac in person. That’s where it all started.”

Huang describes the campaign as “flat” and completely run by volunteers, including money contributions from friends and family members.

Kim highlighted his campaign as a grassroots organization, which volunteers run, and he committed to forgoing fundraising money from real estate, lobbyists, and police interests. According to the city’s ethics website, which reported how much each candidate has raised, received, and spent, Kim’s campaign has approximately $16,000 in contributions from individuals who truly support Kim’s beliefs and his impact on the district.

“Working with Isaac is refreshing,” Bilal said. “because while other candidates refer to the residents as constituents, Kim refers to them as ‘neighbors,’ which is his most valuable quality.”

And Kim is ready for that seat on the table.

“Right now is a crucial time in L.A. City Council, there’s a big progressive wave happening, and I would like to be part of that,” he said.