Out of his desire to reduce regulation and what he sees as federal intrusion, Eugene Yu, a Republican candidate for Congress in the 12th District, would like to see the U.S. Departments of Education, Energy and Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency abolished.
Yu, 58, who arrived in the United States as a teenager and took a test to earn his citizenship while serving in the U.S. Army in the 1970s, also has pronounced views about immigration policy. He is vying with four other Republicans in the May 20 primary for the right to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow this November. After attending a prayer group at Bulloch Fertilizer early Wednesday morning, Yu came to the Statesboro Herald for a prearranged interview.
"To me, that American dream is just slipping away, that I want our children to have the same American dream that I had when I first came to this country 40-some years ago," Yu said.
He traces his decision to run for federal office to his disappointment when Republican nominee Mitt Romney failed in his bid to unseat President Barack Obama in 2012.
"Then, all of a sudden I started thinking, wait a minute, before I get too old I want to do something for my country, my people or my community," Yu said.
For eight months beginning in 2013, he campaigned for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. But after seeing that the concerns of people in different parts of Georgia varied, Yu said, he decided to concentrate on his home area. He switched to the 12th District race two months ago and made his candidacy official during qualifying week in early March.
One stance highlighted on Yu's campaign literature is his desire to "return control of education" to the states.
"I want the federal government completely out of education," he said. "That's saving the budget but yet you're giving education back to the state government, local government, local community or parents. I think that we will do a much better job than the federal government trying to tell our children what curriculum they have to take and this and that."
He confirmed that this would mean abolishing the U.S. Department of Education.
Another of his campaign planks is reducing regulations and taxes on small businesses and farmers. Toward this end, he would like to help eliminate three more large agencies.
"The Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and especially EPA, those departments just we need to abolish from the federal government once for all," Yu said.
Together, the EPA and the Commerce, Education and Energy departments spend $189 billion annually, Yu has calculated.
"With that $189 billion a year, we can do a lot of other things, or we might just pay the national debt," he said.
Yu has not held elected office. Born in South Korea, he has been an Augusta resident since his parents immigrated there with him and his four brothers in 1972. While attending Augusta's Butler High School, he worked the night shift in a box factory and bagged groceries on weekends.
Also a volunteer firefighter while in high school, he became a full-time firefighter while attending Augusta College. He did not graduate there but joined the Army, serving three years. While in the Army in his early 20s he obtained citizenship, which allowed him to become a military police officer.
After the Army, he served as a Richmond County sheriff's deputy for five years. Later he first worked for, and then owned for about 20 years, a company that refurbished used U.S. military trucks for export to foreign countries under a government program.
Yu and his wife, Jonie, have been married 35 years. They have a daughter, Jodie, and a son, Eric. Their first grandchild was born April 1.
Yu is a member of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta. His parents were Buddhists, but finding no temple in Augusta, ceased to practice any religion, he said. He became a Christian after he started attending church with his wife about 33 years ago.
Other planks of his campaign include renegotiating trade deals to ensure Americans are treated fairly and reinforcing U.S. borders.
He opposes amnesty for immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
"Legal immigrants like me, when the Washington people start talking about giving amnesty to those illegal immigrants, I take it as a direct insult to us," Yu said.
He observed that an amnesty was granted to about 3 million previously undocumented aliens more than 20 years ago.
"Now we are facing 11 million," Yu said.
Noting the importance of agriculture in the12th District, Yu said he supports a strengthened guest worker program for people from other countries who would work here and return home.
"Those farmers need those workers," he said. "I think we need to come up with a very comprehensive new law so those farmers can reach out to good labor when they need it."
Undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, Yu said, should be deported immediately.
For otherwise innocent people in the country illegally, he does suggest a 10-year path to citizenship.
"We need to come up with some kind of program to let them come out of the shadows, register, give them maybe a work permit so that can legally work, pay the tax, without any benefits for maybe the first five years," Yu said.
Then if they have worked and paid taxes, he said, they could apply for lawful permanent resident status, the so-called "green card." Then after five more years, those who wished could apply to become citizens, he said.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.