HONOLULU — Beth Fukumoto, a state legislator who made headlines by switching her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, has announced her candidacy for Hawaii 1st Congressional District seat.
The seat is being vacated by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is challenging incumbent and fellow Democrat David Ige in the gubernatorial race. The district, which encompasses the urban areas of the City and County of Honolulu, was previously represented by the late Mark Takai (D).
Other Democrats in the running are State Attorney General Doug Chin, State Rep. Kaniela Ing, State Sen. Donna Kim, and Honolulu City Councilmember Ernie Martin.
According to Fukumoto’s campaign website: “Born and raised on Oahu, Beth Fukumoto has been a constant champion for working families in the Hawaii House of Representatives. As one of the youngest legislative leaders in the country, Beth demonstrated the courage to take tough positions against entrenched interests and stand up for the people of our state. She is the proven leader we need in Washington representing our First Congressional District.”
“I’m running for Congress because my family, like yours, knows what it’s like to struggle to make a living, to own a home, and to plan a future in a state that gets more expensive every year,” Fukumoto said in a statement. “We need leaders who understand the changing needs of Oahu’s working families and have demonstrated success in addressing them. Our next representative in Congress will have to build strong relationships and gain seniority to ensure that our state enjoys our best future.”
Born in 1983 in Honolulu, Fukumoto received a B.A. in American studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and an M.A. in English from Georgetown University. After running unsuccessfully in 2010, she was elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Representing District 36 (Mililani, Mililani Mauka, Waipio Acres), she was the youngest person to serve as House minority floor leader and House minority leader.
Last year, Fukumoto became estranged from the GOP as she publicly criticized President Trump’s attitude toward women and people of color. She said in a statement:
“In the last couple years, I’ve watched leaders in the Republican Party become less and less tolerant of diverse opinions and dissenting voices. Today, I’m facing demands for my resignation from leadership and possible censure because I raised concerns about our president’s treatment of women and minorities.
“I’ve been asked by both my party and my caucus to commit to not criticizing the president for the remainder of his term and to take a more partisan approach to working in the Legislature. That is not a commitment I can make. As a representative of my community, it is my job to hold leaders accountable and to work with anyone, regardless of party, to make Hawaii a better place for our families …
“I sent a letter to my district explaining that I would like to leave the Republican Party and seek membership in the Democratic Party. When I was re-elected in November, I was elected as a Republican, and I want to honor my community’s choice by consulting them before any decision is made … I encourage my constituents to contact me with input and provide feedback. I was elected by the people of Mililani, and I am here to represent them.”
The majority of responses she received were in favor of the move.