Mazie: Shedding The Loser Label

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - April 19, 2006

In the race for Hawaii’s 2nd District congressional seat, Mazie Hirono boasts longer experience in public office and greater name recognition than any of the other candidates. And at the end of last week she also claimed more money - she’s raised $300,000.

Hirono will need experience, name recognition and money, for she also carries the onus of being the first Democrat in 40 years to lose the governorship to a Republican. In 2002, Linda Lingle became Hawaii’s first woman governor by defeating Hirono by more 17,500 votes.

Hirono dismisses the loser title. “The 2nd Congressional District voted for me in the 2002 gubernatorial election,” she says. “Second District voters had faith in my abilities. As I’ve been going around the Islands, I haven’t run into any loser sentiment. The people I’ve talked to are very excited about my race.”

Like several of the other candidates in the 2nd Congressional, Hirono doesn’t live in the district. “But I am the only candidate who has held statewide office,” she says. “As lieutenant governor I represented the 2nd District voters at the state level. And as LG, I visited the Neighbor Islands many times.

“I’ve met their farmers and high tech workers and small-business people. I understand the uniqueness of each island, and I have a core of friends and supporters on every island.”

A graduate the University of Hawaii, Hirono became active in politics in the 1970s while still a student. She attend law school on the Mainland at Georgetown University.

In 1980, Hirono won a seat representing Moiliili-McCully in the in the State House. She served seven terms in the House, and many close to the Legislature considered her among its most effective members.

“One-hundred-and-forty bills that I introduced became law,” she says. “And I shepherded many more through committee. I saw myself as a consumer advocate, representing working people. I sought adequate workmen’s compensation and land reform to allow people to purchase the land under their homes.”

In 1994 the Democratic ticket of Ben Cayetano for governor and Hirono for lieutenant governor began an eight-year run on the Capitol’s fifth floor. Hirono did the best she could with that office, forming policy groups on science and technology, teacher support and preschool education.

So what has Hirono been doing since her defeat in the 2002 gubernatorial race? “I’m the founding chair of the Patsy T. Mink Political Action Committee,” she says. “We raise money for pro-choice Democratic women running for state office.”

She’s also traveled and lectured, speaking on women in politics - among other things. “I’ve also indulged in my love of art - ceramics,” she says. “I think creative forces are an important aspect of public life; they’re necessary to support and sustain us.”

Hirono identifies herself as “responsive and effective in working with others to get things done in a legislative setting. I’m solidly pro-choice. I think the Republican-led Congress has put us on the wrong track, particularly in regard to things we need for Hawaii: more transportation funds, support for preschools, greater support for our soldiers. Call me a progressive who will work closely with others in the Hawaii congressional delegation.”

Hirono puts education at the top of her legislative concerns. “I will seek membership on any congressional committee that will help Hawaii, but my primary concern is education. That’s the foundation.”

Hirono was reared by her single mother, an immigrant from Japan. She attended five public schools: Kaahumanu, Kokohead (“Back when Kokohead was country,” she says), Niu Valley, Jarrett Intermediate and Kaimuki High School. “We were immigrants,” she explains. “We always rented.

“But the unique experience of being an immigrant made me appreciate what educational opportunity means. I’m committed to improving public education. That’s where we learned how to read. That’s where the world opened.”

Hirono is married to Leighton Kim Oshima, an attorney.

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