Less than a year after quitting the Republican Party and joining the Democrats, state Rep. Beth Fukumoto officially announced today she is running for the U.S. House seat representing urban Honolulu.
Fukumoto, 34, said she has been watching the four other major contenders for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Colleen Hanabusa, and said she hasn’t yet seen what she wants in a candidate.
“I do think we need somebody who has shown the courage to stand up to the establishment, but also has a proven track record of getting things done, and we need to make sure whoever we send is experienced enough in politics to navigate Washington,” Fukumoto said.
She acknowledged she is entering the race late — the Democratic primary is slightly more than four months away — but said a recent Star-Advertiser voter poll asking about the race suggested that “nobody’s excited” about the candidates who are already running.
That poll found that state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D-Kalihi Valley-Moanalua-Halawa), and Lt. Gov. Douglas Chin are leading in the Congressional race with support running at about 30 percent for each of them, while City Councilman Ernie Martin and state Rep. Kaniela Ing (D, South Maui) are trailing far behind.
Fukumoto, who lives in Mililani Mauka, said she wants to push for greater federal support for affordable housing and infrastructure such as highways.
Fukumoto was first elected to the state House in 2012 representing Mililani and Waipio Acres, and served as minority leader of the Republicans’ six-member House caucus in 2015 and 2016. She was criticized at times for being too cooperative with the Democrats who control the state House, but was regarded as a promising young GOP leader.
Her career seemed to charge course in May 2016 when she was heckled at the state Republican Convention after taking the microphone to tell the crowd that some of Donald Trump’s statements are sexist and racist, and she did not want him to become president.
After Trump won the election, Fukumoto marched in support of women’s rights during the Women’s March in Honolulu in January 2017, where she again publicly described the new president as “racist and sexist.” Her fellow House Republicans then ousted her as minority leader in February 2017, and she quit the Republican party a month later.
Fukumoto was then accepted into the Democratic Party in a unanimous vote by the Oahu county executive committee last June.