Editor’s Note: Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is running for reelection to her seat in the 1st Congressional District. She wrote this piece in response to a Civil Beat story asking Why Would Anybody Want This Job?

While I can’t say why any other candidate is running for Congress, I know that for me the reason is simple: If you want to make a difference, you go where you can make a difference.

The United States Congress is the ultimate legislative body, playing a vital role in the most stable government in the world. Two years ago I asked myself where I could be most effective in serving Hawaii, and I decided that at that moment, it was in the legislative process. As a result, I made a commitment to running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congress is partisan, and it always has been. With 435 members serving very diverse constituencies, the House is a complex body. Getting any large group of people to agree on anything is a challenge, but that is an inherent part of having a representative democracy. A member representing a southern agricultural district, for example, will have different priorities than someone from a northern industrial district. It mirrors the complexity of our nation. Diversity and differing opinions are a reality that you have to accept if you want to be effective in having a voice and being a voice for your constituents.

A number of commentators and analysts have observed that this has been the most partisan and divisive Congress in recent history. There are certainly groups and individuals within the House for whom compromise is a bad word, and who are willing to take our nation to the brink in order to get their way. But there are many more who know that compromise is a vital part of legislating, and we work consistently to serve the people we represent.

I am comfortable knowing that I have colleagues on both sides of the aisle who understand that the atmosphere can be partisan without being toxic. Advocacy is not the same as antagonism. The question is not whether we disagree, but how we disagree. I believe that it is absolutely vital that anyone who hopes to go to Congress be willing to participate in that process in a respectful and productive way.

I respect the decision of some of my colleagues to leave Congress rather than continue to face the often-difficult environment we find there. For me, giving up is not an option. Yes, it is challenging and we face a daunting to-do list. The decisions we make today will have far reaching effects, touching the lives and affecting the futures of millions of Americans. But progress and prosperity are only possible if our elected officials, by their actions, acknowledge that Hawaii and our nation deserve that commitment and are worth every bit of hard work.

Facing tough questions is not a reason for me to avoid serving in Congress; it is the reason I go.


About the author: Rep. Colleen Hanabusa represents Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.