We had some great Senate victories last night. Elizabeth Warren. Nothing more needs to be said. Richard Mourdock found out it was God’s intent that he not serve in the U.S. Senate. Todd Akin found out that women’s bodies do indeed have a way to shut that whole thing down – when it comes to him not serving in the Senate. Denny Rehberg had his ass handed to him by Jon Testor. Heidi Heitkamp overcame a 20 point Presidential vote deficit to be the first woman elected to the Senate from North Dakota. But the one that rocks my socks is Mazie Hirono’s blowout win in Hawai’i. Linda Lingle narrowly defeated Mazie for Governor in 2002 52-47%. Hawai’i made up for that mistake last night, electing Mazie over Lingle to be their next U.S. Senator by a margin of 62.6-37.4%!
I lived in Honolulu 1992-1999, working in hotel management. I first noticed Mazie in 1994 when she ran for Lieutenant Governor. Governors and Lt. Governors are elected in separate races in Hawai’i. Ben Cayetano was elected in a typical Hawai’i Democratic landslide, while Mazie won a much more narrow election, wining with 37% of the vote over a “Best Party”, Republican and Green Party candidates. It was never an easy path for Mazie.
Mazie was born in Japan in 1947. Her father was a compulsive gambler and alcoholic who would sell his wife’s possessions for money to gamble with. Fed up with her husand and abuse from his relatives when she complained, in 1955 Mazie’s mother left her abusive marriage, pretending she was visiting her parents took Mazie and her elder son to Hawai’i. Mazie recalls that time:
She determined that she had to get away, and it wasn’t enough to even be living in the same country — she wanted to put thousands of miles between them. That took a lot of courage. I always tell my mom there is nothing I can do, hard as it is to be in politics, to be in public life, that I think is harder then what she did.
Mazie never saw her father again, and he has since passed away. Mazie and her mother and brother arrived in Hawai’i not knowing a word of English, but they all worked hard to adapt and thrive in their new homeland. Mazie excelled in public schools, and earned a B.A. in psychology at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. She then went on to earn her J.D. law degree at Georgetown University Law Center, and returned to Honolulu to practice law in 1978. Just two years later she won her first election, wining a seat in the state legislature – a seat she would hold for the next 14 years. After losing the Governor’s race in 2002 Mazie returned to her law practice. In 2006 Hawai’i’s 2nd congressional seat opened up with Ed Case vacating it in his ill fated primary challenge to Senator Akaka. She won the seat easily, and was reelected in 2008 with 76% of the vote and again in 2010 with 72%. And now she will be Hawai’i’s first woman Senator, the first Asian-born immigrant to be elected to the U.S. Senate, man or woman.
Mazie Hirono has always held truly progressive views. She was endorsed by Howard Dean’s Democracy for America’s Dean Dozen in the Senate race, along with a long list of organizations ranging from the Human Rights Campaign, Emily’s List, Feminist Majority, League of Conservation Voters, every labor organization in the state, and so many more. In her victory statement Mazie said:
From day one, our campaign has been about making sure that Hawai’i’s values and priorities have a voice in the U.S. Senate.
A voice that will speak up on behalf of the middle class and working people.
That will fight for our kupuna (elders)—by honoring our commitments to Social Security and Medicare.
That will fight for our keiki (children)—by creating greater educational opportunities.
That is committed to a stronger, more sustainable economy here in Hawaii and throughout the nation.
I can’t wait for Mazie to get down to work in the United States Senate. Mahalo, Hawai’i!