Who am I?

When I first came to this country I never thought I would be a candidate for the US Senate.

I grew up in Japan and spent my early years on my grandparents farm, sent by my mother who wanted her children to have a better life away from an abusive and alcoholic husband, my father. My mother planned and plotted in secret to get us away from my father and his family. When I was nearly eight years old, she took my older brother and me to flee Japan in search of a better life in Hawaii.

Carrying one suitcase with all our belongings, we crossed the Pacific in steerage aboard the President Cleveland. We landed in Hawaii with not much more than the clothes on our backs. We rented a room in a boarding house, sharing the single bed by sleeping sideways. My younger brother and grandparents followed us to Hawaii a few years later.

My mother found work, but the pay often didn't go far enough. I saved the dimes my mother gave me and vividly remember when my mother had to break into my piggy bank to use those dimes to buy food for the family.

Without knowing a word of English, I enrolled in Hawaii public schools. My mother encouraged me to study hard, and my teachers taught me to read and succeed.

It was the work ethic and value of education instilled in me by my mother that propelled me to go to college at the University of Hawaii. With the help of a federal work-study program, I graduated and went on to study law at Georgetown University Law Center.

In 1980, I ran for a seat in the Hawaii state legislature and won. As a state legislator, I worked to protect the rights of consumers--reforming auto, homeowners' and workers' compensation insurance to better protect consumers and employees. I also changed the law on retail gift cards by extending expiration dates.

As Hawaiis lieutenant governor, I led efforts to support the states tourism industry and create jobs, fighting for visa waivers for South Korean visitors. In addition, I revamped Hawaii's workers' compensation law, creating the Hawaii Employers Mutual Insurance Company (HEMIC).

My younger brother never received early learning experiences, and his struggles are one reason I have fought to expand pre-K programs. Both as lieutenant governor by leading Hawaiis Pre-Plus program and leading the charge in Congress for President Obamas Early Learning Challenge, I have been a tireless advocate for quality early learning and other evidence based education reforms that will enable our students to succeed in school and in life.

In 2006, I was elected to Congress to represent Hawaiis 2nd congressional district, becoming the first Asian-American immigrant woman elected to the U.S. House. I fight to make sure the values of equal opportunity and fair play are protected for our middle class families while working to create jobs and building a sustainable future for our children.

Why am I running?

My mother showed me that one person can make a difference. She changed my life by bringing me to this country. My immigrant background and experiences, such as working in a low income community over a summer and protesting the Vietnam war as a college student led me to public service as a way to give back to my community and state.

My mother, and my friend and continuing inspiration, Patsy T. Mink, taught me to never give up and to always keep fighting for what is right. That fighting spirit to keep fighting for Hawaii and our people is why I am running for this seat.

If elected, I would be honored to be the first Asian American woman to serve as a United States Senator.

My Goals

My first and foremost priority as a member of the U.S. Senate will be to continue to focus on creating jobs for our people. One way to do this is to keep our number one industry, tourism, strong. I will continue the work i started in the house to pass my bipartisan visit act which could bring more than 300,000 Chinese tourists to Hawaii annually and create thousands of additional jobs across our state.

Having immigrated to the United States as a young child of a single mother and unable to speak English, I understand first hand the importance of public education and protecting the educational opportunities for our children has been a cornerstone of my work in public office. Children from low-income families enter kindergarten with just half the vocabulary of their more fortunate peers. Decades of research have shown that quality early learning can yield a major return-on-investment. It helps close achievement gaps before they start and help children learn to read on time, graduate high school, and even avoid crime and incarceration later in life. In my first year in the U.S. Senate, I will continue fighting to expand quality early learning opportunities for the children of Hawaii and nationwide.

My DFA Values

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My Campaign is People Powered!

Our campaign depends on grassroots support from people like you. According to an analysis by Honolulu Civil Beat, 28% of our individual contributions came from those giving less than $200. By contrast, our Republican opponent earned less than 4% of her contributions from small contributions, and plans to raise $8 to $10 million from conservative Republican interests. She held a fundraiser with special guest Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, author of the anti-woman amendment to deny employees access to healthcare. Speaker Boehner and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have already given the maximum to her campaignsignaling their interest in our race. In contrast, over 4,000 individual donors supported our campaign in the 4th quarter of 2011 alone.

I am fighting to be the voice of working people, not corporate special interests. Our campaign has been endorsed by EMILYs List, Hawaii AFL-CIO, Hawaii Government Employees Association, Hawaii State Teachers Association, Americans for Democratic Action, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, Council for a Livable World, League of Conservation Voters and many others.

Voice support


  • Francis Choe, HI
  • Sam Sero, CA
  • Charles Loelius, NJ
  • Ray Akin, CA
  • James Vollaro, CA
  • Eugene Seybold, HI
  • Mary beth Hilburn, HI
  • Ck Spellman, HI
  • Jarrett Fein, CA
  • David Raatz, HI
...and 16 more.

About the Endorsement Process

The driving force behind all DFA endorsements is our members. We recognize that all politics is local and that what is considered progressive in Los Angeles may be very different from what's considered progressive in Louisville. For this reason, DFA does not have a litmus test of specific progressive positions for which a candidate must stand. Our endorsement is heavily weighted based on these questions:

• Will the candidate move the progressive movement forward in their community?
• Does the candidate have substantial support from our local members?
• Do the candidate's positions and policies fit into the broader progressive movement?
• Is the campaign people-powered and the candidate working to win?

If you have questions, or want to let us know about a candidate in your neighborhood, please call us at (802) 651-3200 or email us at [email protected] .

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