Colleen Hanabusa served as Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District representative from January 2011 until January 2015.
Hanabusa was re-elected to her post on Nov. 6, 2012, defeating former Rep. Charles Djou by about 10 points.
On May 2, 2013, Hanabusa announced her campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Brian Schatz. Schatz was appointed to the position in December 2012 following the death of Daniel K. Inouye; Inouye had asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa, his favored successor.
Hanabusa lost to Schatz by a narrow margin in the 2014 Democratic primary. Since leaving Congress, she has returned to her law practice. She also holds membership on the boards of Honolulu rail and the Gas Company, and in 2016 was named a lecturer and Daniel K. Inouye Visiting Scholar, a joint appointment shared between the Public Policy Center and the Political Science Department.
In Congress, Hanabusa served on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. She also served as a number of subcommittees, and more than one dozen caucuses.
Hanabusa, a fourth-generation Japanese American, was born May 4, 1951, and was raised in Waianae on Oahu’s Leeward Coast. She earned a B.A. in economics and sociology and an M.A. in sociology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
In 1977 Hanabusa received a J.D. from the William S. Richardson School Law, a part of the Manoa campus. She has worked as a labor attorney for more than three decades.
In 1998 Hanabusa was elected to state Senate District 21, which covered Waianae, Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Makaha and Makua. During her 12 years in the Legislature, she served as chair of the Senate Committee on Water, Land and Agriculture, was a member of the Hawaiian Affairs Committee, and was vice-chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Hanabusa later served as Senate Majority Leader and in 2006 was named by her colleagues the Senate president. She was re-elected in 2008 to represent District 21 for another four-year term.
As Senate president, Hanabusa was the first woman to lead the chamber in Hawaii history and the first Asian-American woman to preside over a United States legislative body in the United States.
Hanabusa is a loyal Democrat, and rarely votes against her party’s majority. However, in her first eight months in Congress, Hanabusa crossed the aisle to vote with a Republican majority more often than any of her congressional colleagues from Hawaii. In the 5 percent of the time that Hanabusa voted with a Republican majority, it related to approving defense appropriations.