With a wink toward Ossoff, Asian-American businessman challenges Woodall in 7th District

A still shot of Kim from his campaign website.

Combined ShapeCaption
A still shot of Kim from his campaign website.

Democrats have been salivating over the chance to mount a serious challenger against Republican Rob Woodall in Georgia's rapidly diversifying 7th District. Could this be it?

David Kim, the Harvard-educated founder of a national test prep company and the son of Korean immigrants, announced his plans Wednesday to run for the House seat in 2018. He did it with a nod toward Democrat Jon Ossoff, another political novice whose out-of-nowhere campaign has shaken up the special election next door in Georgia's 6th District.

"I am not your traditional Democrat," Kim wrote in a fundraising email to supporters Wednesday. "I want to represent those voices who feel like they’re not really being represented accurately. I want to be a voice that’s independent minded -- thinking about what’s best for the long term for all of us."

Ossoff has also sold himself as a more independent Democratic voice in recent weeks. Kim, 38, said cutting down on the divisive rhetoric and hashing out legislative compromises are key to uniting the voters Georgia's racially diverse northeast suburbs.

“I think there is a strong desire for someone who is less partisan, for someone who’s had a voting record that’s been less of a rubber stamp along party line," Kim said in an interview. He added that Woodall "has been more interested in partisan purity than getting things done for the people" and that he's been more of a "rubber stamp" for President Donald Trump than a consensus-builder.

The Duluth resident started his company, C2 Education, in his college dorm and grew it into a national business with more than 180 tutoring centers. Kim said his experience has shaped him to be politically "pro-business" but also more socially progressive, particularly on issues such as education and student debt. The national rhetoric surrounding immigration and health care also prompted him to run, he said.

"A lot of the language with regards to immigration policy and some of the language that has been touted is definitely something that does not make me happy as the son of immigrants," he said.

The competition 

Kim isn't the only Democrat to jump into next year's 7th District race. Political organizer Kathleen Allen also plans to hold a campaign kickoff on June 22nd in Norcross.

Woodall, 47, has held the seat since 2011 after he emerged from an eight-man primary to succeed his former boss John Linder. The Lawrenceville Republican has cruised to reelection ever since, beating his last Democratic challenger by more than 20 percentage points in November.

A former lawyer and low-key lawmaker, Woodall is known for his love for policy details and winding oratory about the budget on the House floor.

In a brief interview Wednesday, Woodall said he welcomed the competition.

“I’m a huge believer in having a choice,” he said. “We’re able to be more influential here (in Washington) if we get elected than if we get appointed.”

Depending on who else enters the race -- and there are expected to be the others -- Kim may be exactly the kind of candidate national Democrats itching to flip more southern seats will want to invest in. Gwinnett's new status as a majority-minority county has shifted those hopes into overdrive, especially given Ossoff's recent success a few miles to the west. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently listed the 7th as one of its target districts for 2018.

The district was initially drawn to favor Republicans, and it still does, according to analysts at sites such as the Cook Political Report. The 7th does not include the more diverse southern portions of Gwinnett but does encompass much of the deeply conservative Forsyth County.

Kim, who is providing the seed money for his campaign, noted in his initial press release that the 6th and 7th congressional districts "have nearly identical partisan makeup." His campaign has enlisted the services of veteran Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, who has recently helped led several underdog Democrats to victory in the House.

Woodall said he does not think any challenger looking to run in the mold of Ossoff will be successful in 2018, when 435 House races are unfolding simultaneously, rather than one or two as there are now.

"The Jon Ossoff model, to be fair, is to have absolutely no record at all and to find somebody willing to pay $30 million to help you. That is absolutely a powerful model. That is not what we're going to have in the 7th District of Georgia," he said.