Republican candidate for state 22nd District says voters need an everyman to represent them
TRUMBULL — As the son of a successful small business owner, Steve Choi says he has seen first-hand the effect that government policy can have on state workers and families.
“We need to be doing things to encourage new and innovative companies to move to Connecticut,” he said. “When tax revenue comes in, we need to make sure it is used to make the community better.”
The recent Tropical Storm Isaias, for example, exposed serious deficiencies in the state’s power supply grid, he pointed out.
“Lots of people lost power for days,” he said. “We should have been taking that (tax) money and putting it into our infrastructure.”
Choi, a member of the Trumbull Board of Finance, is the Republican challenger to three-term incumbent State Sen. Marilyn Moore in the 22nd District. The district includes all of Trumbull, most of western Bridgeport and a small piece of Monroe.
A Trumbull native, Choi is a product of the Trumbull public schools and holds degrees in finance and financial risk management from the University of Connecticut. He worked for several multinational corporations in places like Zurich and South Korea before returning to town to work alongside his father at KBC Electronics in Milford. The company, which his father founded in 1986, is a supplier of electrical components for automakers and the U.S. Department of Defense, among other clients.
While running on the familiar GOP theme of “fiscal prudence,” Choi acknowledged that was going to be a challenge in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with the economy. In fact, concern about the virus and concern over the state economy are the two biggest factors the public wants to talk about, he said.
The impact of coronavirus on schools has also been a concern, he said. Health protocols shut down schools across the state last March, forcing educators to scramble to enact remote learning methods. Bridgeport is planning a return to full-day in-person learning, while Trumbull and Monroe have both adopted hybrid models, with half the students in the building and half participating in remote, online classes. The two groups would switch places depending on the day.
Choi, who has two children attending Trumbull High School, said he considered the hybrid model to be the most prudent.
“It lets us dip our feet in the water,” he said. “If COVID numbers begin to increase, then we’ll know we made the wrong decision.”
One clear difference between he and Moore is the recent police accountability bill that was passed special session last month. Moore was an enthusiastic supporter, Choi took a more nuanced position. While critical of some of the bill’s provisions, especially stripping qualified immunity from police officers — a legal right that protects officers from personal liability in the case of misconduct — he also characterized the bill as a missed opportunity.
“Nothing is perfect, and I believe police do need reform,” he said. “That’s not for debate.”
But a change so monumental deserved more care than the special session accorded, he said.
“Honestly, we needed to make sure we included everything,” he said. “Let’s do this once, and do it right, rather than forcing something.”
As a relative unknown in the district, Choi said he had a tough task ahead in unseating Moore, who recently won a Democratic primary against a party-backed challenger. Conventional wisdom also is that 2020 could be a tough year for Republican candidates.
Choi said he is undeterred, seeing the challenge as a unique opportunity.
“This has been a difficult year for everyone, and politics is as polarizing as ever. But I’m not worried people will vote straight down the (party) line,” he said.
“Sure, some people will say, ‘Oh, he’s a Republican,’ but I think people, as they get to know who I am, they’ll see the decisions I’ve made (on the Board of Finance) show that I support and care about what’s best for the community,” he said. “I see this as an opportunity to be in a position to make positive changes, and I’m hoping I get the opportunity to help.”