Mike Gabbard has represented District 19 in West Oahu in the Hawaii Senate since 2006. Due to the reapportionment of state districts, Gabbard sought re-election in 2012 in District 20 against Republican contender Dean Capelouto. Gabbard beat Capelouto with 69 percent of the vote in the general election. His daughter, Tulsi Gabbard, was elected to represent Hawaii Second Congressional District in the same election.
Gabbard is best known for his socially conservative views promoted through a political and media campaign against gay marriage in the 1990s that culminated in the first state constitutional amendment targeting same-sex couples. The 1998 amendment gives the Hawaii Legislature the power to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. Despite this, Hawaii legislators voted in 2011 to legalize civil unions for all people.
During his most recent term, Gabbard promoted clean energy as chair of the Committee on Energy and Environment. He also served on the committees for Judiciary and Labor and Transportation and International Affairs.
Gabbard’s daughter, Tulsi Gabbard, was a member of the Honolulu City Council before running for the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2004, Mike Gabbard ran for the same seat but lost to incumbent Ed Case by more than 54,000 votes.
Although Tulsi Gabbard has diverged from her father’s socially conservative views, Mike Gabbard supports her candidacy and has donated the maximum amount of $5,000 to her campaign. In a June 2012 Civil Beat poll, Tulsi Gabbard emerged as a strong contender in the race, pulling neck-and-neck with Mufi Hannemann, although 34 percent of respondents said that they were less likely to vote for her because of her father’s political views.
During the 2004 election, Gabbard ran as a member of the Republican party. In 2007, he shifted his allegiance to the Democratic Party of Hawaii in a move that drew criticism from fellow Republicans, including former Gov. Linda Lingle.
Prior to joining the Senate, Gabbard served on the Honolulu City Council from 2003 to 2005. Gabbard is a former educator and current businessman. In the past, he has founded several nonprofit organizations focusing on education, the environment, and stopping the promotion of homosexuality.
Gabbard was born in American Samoa on January 15, 1948. He is the first Hawaii senator of Samoan descent, according to his website. Gabbard attended California State University and Oregon State University where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, respectively.