SARATOGA SPRINGS — Apparent mayor-elect Ron Kim stood on Broadway in front of City Hall Wednesday afternoon holding thank-you signs under a brief hailstorm.
Numerous motorists honked in approval of the Korean-American Democrat’s 262-vote margin on Heidi Owen West, an independent candidate who ran on the Republican line Tuesday.
Robin Dalton, an independent candidate who’s vacating her post as public safety commissioner, finished a distant third. But Dalton, after defecting from the GOP in February, said she accomplished her goal in the mayor’s race by preventing a Republican-backed candidate who Dalton said hadn’t rejected “Trumpism.”
Prior to his public show of gratitude, Kim spoke about his ascension to mayor during an interview at Coffee Traders Saratoga.
There are ballots still to be counted, but West conceded defeat.
The Saratoga County Board of Elections sent out 858 absentee ballots to Saratoga Springs voters, with 425 received as of early Wednesday. Absentee ballots received by mail and at the polls that have not yet been processed are not included in the totals.
Ballots postmarked no later than Nov. 2 will be valid if received by the board of elections by Nov. 9 for civilians and Nov. 15 for military veterans.
Early voting tallies were included in the unofficial results published by the county.
The city’s unofficial in-person turnout for Saratoga Springs was 8,488, not including absentee and affidavit ballots.
Living in Saratoga Springs
Kim, 62, addressed the claim by local Republicans that he actually lives in Glens Falls and not the Spa City.
“It wasn’t true, and I think it hurt their credibility,” Kim said, explaining that he changed his registration to run for Congress for a two-year stretch.
“I voted here in Saratoga Springs 25 times,” Kim said. “I raised my kids here. There were pictures of my son doing a commencement speech at SPAC. So, to be honest, I had people come up to me who reacted negatively to that post because they knew my background.”
Kim said he didn’t make racism a focus of the campaign. But he said he felt it was a factor.
“But this is one of the things that happens when you run and you’re a minority, is people sort of start asking you things like that.”
During a debate, he said he was asked if he believed in the Constitution.
That’s offensive, Kim said.
“Why am I being asked that question? So, I mean, in the end, I think those are individual pockets of an unfortunate situation. But I think what happened was people said, we’re not going to accept those things.”
Democratic Mayor Meg Kelly, who didn’t seek re-election, endorsed West, but Kim said he’s hoping Kelly will assist in a smooth transition.
Kelly didn’t return a phone message Wednesday seeking comment about whether she would.
“One of the things that I want to do is, I’m going to appoint a transition team of three to four people that will sort of work on different issues that I think are important, like have an infrastructure person who has that background, and criminal justice. But we haven’t sorted that out yet,” Kim said.
Kim served as public safety commissioner from 2006 to 2010, and prior to taking that office, he said he met with the police and fire chiefs and department heads to get to know them prior to taking office.
He said he’ll do that once again before he’s inaugurated.
Kim and public safety commissioner-elect James Montagnino are friends and attorneys who both have prioritized an investigation into the 2014 death of Darryl Mount Jr. following a police pursuit on foot that ended at a construction site. Police say Mount, who fell into a nine-month coma, was injured in a fall from scaffolding.
But Mount’s family and supporters contend the police beat him.
“I think we definitely have a different view of what we need to do in that particular realm,” Kim said, “and I think we both also recognize the urgency. We need to build trust among the people, and the way we’re going to do that is to get this investigation done, wherever the cards fall, and then move on.”
Kim said he believes he was elected because people recognize that he’s been a Saratogian for almost 30 years, and had spent time in city government.
He said state assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, called to congratulate him, while expressing concern that city officials hadn’t applied for small-scale state infrastructure grants that are available. Sidewalks are among the city’s needs, Kim said.
“This is not a bill that has to pass,” he said.
Kim said he will approach being mayor as a full-time job. He said he doesn’t have staff in his law firm, but he will now reach out to people to try to enhance its resources.
“I do a lot of long-term litigation,” he said. “One of my cases is a five-year-old case of pregnancy discrimination at Warren County Jail.”
Vested in that case, he said he will “have to figure out how to do that” while approaching his mayoral duties.
“The reality when I spoke to my wife about this, way back when, was if I got it, the reality is it’s a full-time job.”
Kim said he met his wife Jennifer more than 30 years ago when he was a first-year law student in New York City at a bar in a Donald Trump-owned hotel.
They have three grown children and are expecting a grandchild in March.
Kim’s parents still live in Glens Falls. His father, who now has Alzheimer’s disease, came to the U.S. on a student visa after the Korean War. He was a field surgeon who escaped a POW camp.
Kim said his father met his mother, a first-generation Italian from Schenectady, when he was studying medicine. They moved to Glen Falls in the 1960s, and his father worked as a surgeon and his mother a nurse.
Kim also actively participates in triathlons, taking it up in 2014 after he and his wife became empty nesters.
“I always swam and then I just added to that,” he said. “So I’ve done several of those. I’ve done the New York City one. I did a Bermuda one. We sort of use it to go on vacations.”
Kim is also on the local board of the approximately 150-member Asian American Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association, which is dedicated to teaching and promoting civic awareness among people of Asian and Pacific Island ancestry.
He said Asian Americans are among the largest-growing minority groups in the Capital Region, although they’re still 7% of its population.
“It’s small, even if you’ve doubled, but it’s significant. And because of the tech industry coming here, there’s more of an influx,” he said.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.