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Fukumoto says aloha to GOP

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    Hawaii Rep. Beth Fukumoto talked to reporters today about why she’s leaving the Republican Party.

Rep. Beth Fukumoto announced Wednesday that she is leaving the Republican Party, citing, in part, its failure to condemn elements of racism and sexism within its base. She will seek membership in the Democratic Party.

Her departure further depletes the Hawaii Republican Party, which is now reduced to just five elected officials, all of whom serve in the state House of Representatives.

“When I joined the Republican Party eight years ago, I did so with a group of people my age who were full of hope, ideas and energy,” Fukumoto said in a news release. “We saw an opportunity to take a political party that was broken, in a political system that seemed rigged, and even the playing field. To us, Democrats represented the status quo, and what we knew was that the status quo was allowing the place that we called home to become so expensive that it was no longer affordable to local families. It seemed like the Democrats in control weren’t concerned with Hawaii’s high cost of living, growing income inequality, our lack of high-wage jobs or our housing crisis.”

Fukumoto said that after serving in the Legislature, she discovered that there were Democrats also trying to change these things with whom she tried to work with. However, she said Republican partisanship “insisted I stop working with Democrats even when it clearly benefited the community.”

“The issues that I’ve had with the Republican Party are well-documented and to reiterate them now would be adding fuel to a fire that doesn’t need to keep burning,” she continued. “It’s enough to say that my friends and I were wrong to think that a failing party could be changed just because we had the will to change it. In the process of trying to make a party that spoke about issues that our communities cared about in a way that Hawaii’s voters wanted to listen to, my friends and I uncovered louder and more powerful voices that fought divergence, difference and diversity at every step. This election, those voices won.”

Fukumoto has been a critic of President Trump and recently spoke during January’s Women’s March in Honolulu, calling Trump a bully who won the White House with “anger and hate.”

Fukumoto said that she made the decision to leave the Republican Party after nearly two months of listening to constituent feedback.

House Republicans ousted Fukumoto as their minority leader in early February over her criticism of Trump and the Republican Party, prompting Fukumoto to announce that she was considering leaving the party.

Republican Party Chairman Fritz Rohlfing at the time urged her to remain in the party, but said that she should resign her elected position if she did decide to switch parties just months after being re-elected, something Fukumoto said she would not do today.

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