In his third run for Congress as a Republican from Georgia’s 12th District, Eugene Yu promises to help President Donald Trump fulfill his “America First” agenda.
Yu, 63, hails from Augusta, also the hometown of U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, whom Yu will challenge in the May 22 Republican primary. Yu first ran in 2014, when Allen won a five-candidate primary and went on to defeat then-Rep. John Barrow, the Democrat who had held the seat 10 years. When Yu ran in 2016, he was Allen’s sole in-party challenger.
“I think that Donald Trump needs my help,” Yu said across the table at a Statesboro restaurant. “He cannot fight all by himself. So I thought I would be the perfect person to advocate with Donald Trump. I can fight for him, some of the agenda he’s trying to achieve, such as immigration, such as trade.”
A South Korea-born, lawful immigrant who became a United States citizen in 1977 after first serving in the U.S. Army, Yu already talked tough against illegal immigration during his first campaign. That was two years before Trump carried that sort of talk, border wall and all, to the front of the 2016 presidential race.
“We are not the banana republic. We are a sovereign nation,” Yu said Tuesday. “We have to do it by the law, and we need to let everybody know we keep the law. That way the people understand and respect. We always welcome the immigrant, but please come in the legal way.”
He supports the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico to “show the public and the world we are trying to enforce our law,” he said.
By Yu’s second campaign, he was also blasting the terms of U.S. participation in multinational trade agreements, another stance Trump has since taken to the White House.
“Free trade sounds so good, but nothing is free,” Yu said in a 2016 interview. “Especially all these trade deals, the other countries are taking advantage of us.”
Specifically, he assailed NAFTA, the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, as bad for the United States. One month after the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership was signed in February 2016, Yu was in Statesboro criticizing the TPP as another bad deal.
Trump withdrew the U.S. from the TPP through a presidential memorandum three days after his inauguration in January 2017. He also threatened to withdraw from NAFTA, but his administration is currently negotiating with Mexico and Canada over proposed changes that could keep the agreement alive.
Yu also supports President Trump in getting tougher on North Korea, which tested a nuclear weapon and several missiles in 2017 while Trump and North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, exchanged threatening statements. Yu said the United States should “choke” the North Korean regime “all the way” economically.
“Softball is not going to work. It didn’t work,” he said. “Some people keep saying, ‘Ah, we don’t want to have a war with North Korea. We need to continue talks.’ Well, we’ve been talking for the last 45 years. Enough is enough.”
Related to trade, Yu wants to restore mandatory country-of-origin labeling of imported food items. Allen voted for legislation in December 2015 that removed the requirement for imported meat and fresh produce.
Also at the table for the interview were Yu’s campaign manager, Bill Thomas of Statesboro, and communications director, Tony Powers, a former talk radio host from Augusta. Powers called Yu “a real constitutional conservative.”
“That is why I decided to support him and get involved with his campaign, because he actually has great common sense, understands human nature and how that really affects our society and how our laws that we write to try to correct human nature are some of the things that have created problems,” Powers said.
Powers calls Allen “RINO Rick,” an assertion that the incumbent is “Republican in name only.” Among other things, he criticizes Allen for voting for some of the short-term spending resolutions that fund the government in the absence of a regular budget.
With the most recent negotiations, Republicans in Congress obtained a needed increase in military spending, “but in exchange they gave the Democrats everything they wanted and more,” Powers said.
Spend for military
Yu said he supports the recent tax cuts but also wants to see cuts in spending. However, he said military spending is exempt from the need for cuts.
“We are facing all kinds of threatening from the other countries, China continuously threatening to us,” Yu said. “We must keep our strength, and helping the military budget is not really wasting the money, because all of it goes back to the public, defense industries’ personnel jobs.”
He referred to foreign aid, or at least aid to countries that express dislike for the United States, as one type of unnecessary spending he would like to see eliminated.
“If I cussed you out all the time, would you loan me the money?” Yu asked.
One point on which he sounds willing to go further than President Trump is in rejection of the United Nations.
“The U.N., the majority of them are against America,” Yu said. “My God, we funded that. If I was Donald Trump, I’d tell the U.N., ‘Get the hell out. Go to Geneva or somewhere else.’”
Has a book now
Yu has a little paperback book, “Restoring the American Dream: Why America First Works,” published in 2017. The first chapter gives a brief autobiography, from his arrival in Augusta as a teenage immigrant joining his parents in the United States to his two previous congressional campaigns.
Before serving as a Military Police officer in the Army, Yu first became a firefighter. He later served as a Richmond County sheriff’s deputy, then worked for and eventually owned a company that refurbished used military trucks for export. He is now retired from business.
Yu and his wife, Jonie, have been married 39 years. They have a son, Eric, a daughter, Jodie, and one grandchild.
Other chapters of the book give Yu’s thoughts on various topics, and the final chapter, “Eugene’s Agenda – Restoring the American Dream,” outlines his platform.
“To anybody talking about the American Dream, I’ll be the perfect example. I’ve lived it,” Yu said.
Two Democratic candidates, both from Statesboro, plan to be on their party’s May 22 ballot vying to face the Republican nominee Nov. 6. Federal Election Commission filings also show two independent candidates for the 12th District seat.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.