John Choi, his spouse Youn and 2 year old son William celebrate his Election Night victory as the new Ramsey County Attorney with supporters at O’Gara’s in St. Paul.
By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL (November 2, 2010) – With both State Sen. Mee Moua and State Rep. Cy Thao deciding not to seek reelection, and the defeat of State Sen. Satveer Chaudhary in the Primary Election, you can look now to John Choi as the newly elected Ramsey County Attorney and the newest Asian American elected office holder in Minnesota.
Choi and his opponent David Schultz emerged from the primaries to continue campaigning to replace four-term Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner who had decided to run for Governor. Choi won with 53 percent of the vote.
At his Election Night celebration at O’Gara’s Tuesday, Choi said he was overwhelmed with the realization of this goal.
“The feelings that I have were expressed in my immigration story, coming here at three and somehow finding a way to be here on this stage,” said Choi. “What a wonderful country; what a wonderful country.”
As an immigrant to Minnesota from Korea at age three in 1973, he went on to graduate from St. Thomas Academy, Marquette University, and Hamline University School of Law. He is also a Fellow at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
Choi said it has been a long and difficult campaign since it started on Facebook in April 2009. In one weekend he said it grew in support and snowballed from there as they began to talk to the community about the important but seldom discussed issues of trying to make a better criminal justice system and a safer community.
Choi said that the challenges to ensuring public safety are more than just pursuing serious consequences for violent crime. He said limited resources and ongoing pressure to downsize require innovative approaches to combating gangs and domestic violence. He would also look for better response times at all levels from 911 to the courts and seek better intervention outcomes with youth in the system.
He said the job requires systems leadership and management of 340 employees and a $38 million budget. More than just criminal prosecutions, he said it requires a broader vision of developing long-term and complex outcomes of efficiency, justice and prevention initiatives. He also provides legal advice for the county.
With three campaign managers and dozens of volunteers present to celebrate the victory, Choi began by praising his spouse, Youn, for taking a larger share of the domestic duties which includes caring for their two year-old son. He also thanked his parents, his sister’s family and his in-laws for their staunch support for the past year.
“This couldn’t have been done without the dedication and support of volunteers who believed in the change they wanted to make,” said Choi at his celebration.
He credited a campaign team for helping him with calls and recruiting donations from more than 1,500 people. He also said the campaign would not have worked without the dedication of his former city co-workers and his would-be co-workers of the county.
“I am just so humbled by the fact that I have had the support of these people throughout this long campaign,” he said.
Choi said his work as Saint Paul City Attorney produced demonstrated success and experience that is similar in scope to the county position. He said the job requires an ability to think outside the box to get people to see outside of their own departmental perspectives to get on board for a bigger picture that benefits everyone.
The International Municipal Lawyers Association honored Choi with the 2009 Joseph I. Mulligan, Jr. Distinguished Public Service Award – considered the highest honor in local government law.
Before entering public service Choi was a partner at Kennedy & Graven Law Firm. He focused on commercial litigation and then government relations. He became a partner by age 30 and was appointed Saint Paul City Attorney at age 35.
Yamy Vang placed third in a field of 24 candidates for the District Court Judge in Minnesota’s 10th Judicial District serving the Washington County area. The unusual number of candidates signed on during an extended deadline after current 10th District Court Judge Thomas G. Armstrong, retired after the deadline to file.
The winner, Tad Jude, had just 15.69 percent of the vote, while Vang came in third with 7.06 percent, just behind Catherine McPherson with 9.98 percent. Vang worked as a prosecutor with the St. Paul City Attorneys Office since 2004 until running for judge.
There are three Hennepin County Judges that are Asian Pacific Islander Americans. Fourth District Court 13 Judge Regina Chu, and District Court 18 Judge Susan N. Burke both ran unopposed.
The remaining Asian American Hennepin County Judge Tony N. Leung was not up for reelection. He was reelected in 2008 and his term expires in 2015.
The remaining area Asian American elected officials include Saint Paul Public School Board members Kazoua Kong Thao and Vallay Varro.
DFL candidate John Harrington, the recently retired Saint Paul Police Chief, won his bid to replace District 67 State Sen. Mee Moua. He became the first African American to win the DFL stronghold seat with nearly 66 percent of the vote over Republican candidate Krysia Weidell and Independence candidate Dino Guerin.
DFL candidate Rena Moran won her bid to replace outgoing District 65A State Rep. Cy Thao. She is the first African American to win the seat with nearly 80 percent of the vote over Republican candidate Paul Holmgren.