Rep. Fukumoto Announces Departure from Republican Party

March 22, 2017, 2:19 PM HST · Updated March 22, 3:13 PM
Wendy Osher · 22 Comments
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Rep. Beth Fukumoto. PC: 2017 Women’s March You Tube video via Rep. Fukumoto.

Hawaiʻi House Representative Beth Fukumoto (District 36: Mililani, Mililani Mauka, Waipio Acres) today announced her departure from the Republican Party, and her plans to seek membership with the Democratic Party.

Rep. Fukumoto was first elected in 2012 and is the youngest person to ever serve as the House Minority Leader in Hawaiʻi.  In 2016, she was the youngest woman to hold a caucus leader position in the United States.

Several months ago, she stirred feathers in the Republican Party when she spoke out against the Republican Party and Donald Trump.

During the 2017 Hawaiʻi Women’s March in Honolulu, Rep. Fukumoto spoke to the crowd about her eight-year-old niece who attended the Republican Party Convention.  “She watched as a ballroom full of men and women tossed insults and booed me because instead of pledging to support my party’s nominee, I said I thought his remarks were racist and sexist and they had no place in the Republican Party,” Rep. Fukumoto said.

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“To that room full of people I was a traitor or a fake or one of the many derogatory words that I was called on social media afterwards; but to my niece, I had told the truth, because little kids know right and wrong,” Rep. Fukumoto said during the Women’s March event.

Today, Rep. Fukumoto announced her departure from the Republican Party in a You Tube video saying that when she joined the Republican Party eight years ago, she did so with a group of people her own age “who were full of hope, ideas and energy–that saw the opportunity to take a political party that was broken in a political system that seemed rigged, and even the playing field.”

“In my mind, revitalizing the Hawaiʻi GOP was going to serve as a political recourse for the people that felt outnumbered, overwhelmed and undervalued by their government,” but Rep. Fukumoto said that at the legislature, she found herself frustrated.

“The decisions seemed like they were always made by an old boys club behind a closed door, and that the Democrats with control, didn’t seem concerned with Hawaiʻi’s high cost of living, growing income inequality, a lack of high wage jobs or our housing crisis,” she said.

Rep. Fukumoto said she ran as a Repbulican because she thought that the Democrats represented the status quo.  “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 for local families,” said Rep. Fukumoto.

She continued, “I thought that adding people with a different label to the Democrat heavy legislature would shake up the status quo and add diversity, which always produces a better product; however, after serving at the state capitol, I discovered that it wasn’t just me and my Republican friends trying to change the status quo.  There were good Democrats trying to change things too.  So we started working together and began winning battles to create more transparency in government and reduce the cost of living.”

But in doing so, Rep. Fukumoto said she ran into “Republican partisanship” that she said “insisted” that she stop working with Democrats, even when it “clearly benefited” the community.

Rep. Fukumoto said that leaving the Republican Party was a last resort.

“Today I’m leaving the Republican Party and pursuing membership in the Democratic Party.  Ultimately, it will be up to Democrats to decide if they want to accept me or not.  But I want to assure my constituents that I will continue to uphold the convictions that I have always demonstrated, regardless of my political affiliation,” said Rep. Fukumoto.

“In serving my district at the legislature, I’ve found significant common ground with my Democratic colleagues–enough common ground that I believe we can fit comfortably in the same tent.  Those that consider my voting record will find that it aligns more closely with the Democratic Party platform than the records of some elected Democrats,” she said.

Rep. Fukumoto said she hopes that the principles of inclusion and tolerance in the Democratic Party will be extended to her.

“I started this journey believing that diversity makes you stronger.  For me, I think the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi allows enough diversity of opinion that I can find a home there.  Democrats that want to change the status quo in Hawaiʻi are still fighting to do it and I want to help them.”

“When I spoke out against the Republican Party and Donald Trump, I spoke because my background and my position made the me the person that had to say something.  It was my fight and I had to fight it regardless of the consequences,” she said.

Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui was among those who responded in kind to the announcement by issuing the following statement:

“As a fellow member of the Democratic Party, I welcome Representative Beth Fukumoto with open arms, as I would any other individual committed to sharing the same values and philosophies that the party upholds. It’s clear that this was a decision she did not come by lightly, and that she believes this decision is not only best for her, but also in the best interest of her constituents. Going forward, I believe that Representative Fukumoto will continue to ably serve her constituents and the State of Hawaiʻi with great respect and independent thinking.”

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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