Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, was elected to represent Hawaii in the U.S. Senate. She defeated Republican Linda Lingle in the Nov. 6, 2012 general election 62 percent to 37 percent.
Before being elected to the U.S. Senate, Hirono was the first female immigrant of Asian ancestry to be elected to the U.S. Congress representing Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. She is now Hawaii’s first female senator and the first Asian-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
Hirono takes the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka.
Her path to the Senate included a primary race for the Democratic nomination against opponent Ed Case, who received 40 percent to Hirono’s 57 percent.
On the Issues
In July 2012, Civil Beat asked Hirono to answer 10 questions on issues ranging from foreign policy to health care. To read Hirono’s responses, click here.
Hirono was born in Fukushima, Japan, on Nov. 3, 1947, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1959 after moving to Hawaii.
Hirono graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and received a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. Returning to Hawaii, Hirono worked as a deputy attorney general, entered private law practice, and was elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives in 1980.
In 1994, Hirono was elected lieutenant governor and served two terms with Gov. Ben Cayetano. In 2002 she explored running to replace Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris, who was widely expected to run for governor and would have had to leave his post to do so. But Harris unexpectedly chose not to run for higher office. Hirono then won the Democratic primary for governor but lost the general election to Republican Linda Lingle.
Four years later, in 2006, Hirono prevailed in a crowded Democratic primary to succeed Ed Case in the 2nd Congressional District. She then won the general election handily.
On Nov. 2, 2010, Hirono was re-elected for her third term in the House with 68 percent of the district’s votes.
No Democrat pulled papers to run against Hirono. Tea Party challenger John Willoughby bested two other Republicans, including former TV reporter Ramsay Wharton, in the Sept. 18, 2010 primary election and lost to Hirono in the general election.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Hirono serves on the House Committee on Education and Labor and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. She is also a member of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education and the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness.
The committee assignments reflect Hirono’s interest in issues like transportation, a critical issue on all Hawaii islands, and early childhood education. In a similar vein, she is also a member of House Democrat caucuses focused on women’s issues, national parks and Asian-Pacific Americans.
Hirono’s record in Congress demonstrates her loyalty to the Democratic party and her interest in education. A Civil Beat analysis of Hirono’s Senate floor votes in the first eight months of 2011 showed that she voted with a majority of Democrats 98 percent of the time.
“Generally speaking, I do view the Democrats as being the people who are supporting the middle class and who care about protecting Medicare and Social Security,” Hirono said at the time. “The Democrats are the people with whom I share priorities.
While Hirono has voted in favor of major legislation backed by Democrats such as the heath care reform bill, much of Hirono’s own legislation appears focused on smaller constituencies back home — a common practice in Congress.
For example, Hirono supported a resolution calling for the use of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for a birthday party for King Kamehameha. Another resolution commemorates the canonization of Father Damien to sainthood, while a third recognizes the contributions of a Hawaii-born former sumo wrestler. There are also several bills asking for studies of sections of Hawaii land that might be added to the National Park Service.
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