Editor’s Note: Richard Rapoza is the volunteer communications director on the Fukumoto for Congress campaign.

This isn’t the place to recite my resume, but I’ve spent over 15 years working with a good number of Hawaii political figures. I am proud to have helped send three different Hawaii representatives to Congress. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve seen a lot.

One thing I never expected to see was a brave young state representative standing in front of her party’s convention, getting booed.

That was Beth Fukumoto, as she stood and called on her party to stop supporting Donald Trump, the racist, misogynist bully who had bragged about assaulting women but was on his way to winning the Republican nomination for president. Even as they booed, she refused to stop until she had used all the time allotted to her to speak the truth, to challenge the majority opinion in the room, to simply do what was right for her young niece, who had accompanied her that day.

Rep Beth Fukumoto Change GOP convention held at the FILAM in Waipahu. 21 april 2016.
State Rep. Beth Fukumoto took heat from fellow Republicans at the party’s 2016 convention in Waipahu. She later left the party over differences with President Trump. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Shortly after the presidential election, Beth again stood in front of a crowd at the women’ march and condemned Trump for his racism and sexism. This time nobody booed, but when her Republican colleagues threatened to strip her of her legislative leadership role, she resigned from the party rather than capitulate to their demand that she submit to their toxic orthodoxy.

I can confirm what you suspect: Politicians seldom take big chances. They measure, weigh, survey, test, consult, poll, and then do what’s safe. But sometimes one will surprise you.

Beth knew that when she left the Republican Party, there was no guarantee that she could become a Democrat. The Democratic Party of Hawaii demanded that she apply for membership, launching an unprecedented review of her record and requiring that she be vetted and voted on by the entire Oahu Central Committee. A requirement that came with a warning that there was a good chance she wouldn’t make it. And if she didn’t pass muster, being a member of no party, her political career would have ended.

Standing up for what was right was so important to Beth that she took that leap without a net, again demonstrating the incredible courage and commitment to truth that have defined her service.

After a thorough review of every vote, every speech, and every position she had taken, the Oahu Central Committee voted to accept her into the Democratic Party of Hawaii, where she has found a home among like-minded people who are committed to working toward the same goals she has always treasured.

I know the value of smart people with fresh ideas and a willingness to challenge the status quo.

Yes, I have seen a lot in politics. Candidates who equivocate when the crowd turns unruly. Elected officials who are more concerned with keeping their office than doing their job. Party loyalists who ask no questions and make no waves.

I have never seen a candidate like Beth Fukumoto. Her courage, strength, independence, and authenticity truly set her apart. She has proven that she possesses the intelligence to understand tough issues, the experience to know how to address them, and the strength to follow the right path despite the challenges. That’s why I believe it is so important that she represent us in Washington, and why I volunteer on her campaign.

As a lifelong Democrat — my first political experience was holding a sign for a state House candidate when I was 9 years old — I support my party. But I also recognize the danger of complacency, of falling into the kind of can’t-lose political self-assuredness that probably infected the Republican party in 1954.

I know the value of smart people with fresh ideas and a willingness to challenge the status quo. There was a time when they had names like Burns, Inouye, and Mink, and there have been others since.

Today I am convinced that mantle should pass to Beth Fukumoto. With that we can continue Hawaii’s proud tradition of strong, smart women in Congress while also laying a foundation for another generation of courageous, independent, and principled leadership in Washington.

Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to news@civilbeat.org and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.

Every campaign season we get tons of emails and commentary from people supporting or opposing particular candidates. Campaign Corner is a forum for healthy — and civil — discussion of candidates and their issues. Endorsements and criticisms are part of a voter’s decision-making process. Here are the ground rules: The column must be written by an identifiable person and accompanied by a current head shot and brief bio. The commentary must be original and not published elsewhere. No campaign email blasts. No letter-writing campaigns. Send columns and questions to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Campaign Corner are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author