By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – Hawaiian lawmaker Beth Fukumoto, ousted last month as the Republican leader of the state House of Representatives after publicly criticizing President Donald Trump, resigned from her party on Wednesday to seek membership as a Democrat.
Fukumoto, 33, Hawaii’s youngest lawmaker to serve as a minority leader in the House of Representatives, said divisive rhetoric from the campaign during the 2016 election convinced her that the Republican Party no longer reflected her values. politicians or the interests of the diverse population of your state.
“In this election, I saw members of my party marginalizing and condemning minorities, ethnic or otherwise, and making degrading comments towards women,” he said in an open letter of resignation from the Republican Party.
Fukumoto, who is of mixed Japanese and Irish descent, said Trump’s comments about the ban on Muslim immigrants and the possibility of establishing a Muslim-American registry struck him as especially concerning.
“He really wanted to see the Republican Party denounce his comments, and that did not happen,” he told Reuters, saying that a Muslim record seemed “one step” from the internment camps.
“For me, that was the issue that really changed the way I feel.”
Fukumoto, who describes himself as a political moderate, was the first Republican in 26 years to represent Oahu’s largely middle-class central district outside Honolulu, the predominantly Democratic state capital.
He said he originally joined the Republicans because he had a feeling that the Democrats were the party of the status quo, but gradually became disillusioned with the Republicans.
She recounted that a fellow Republican caucus member warned her last year that they should be considered the “party of Central America” despite Hawaii’s diverse demographics.
Before making the change, Fukumoto sent voters a questionnaire seeking their opinions. Of those who responded, 76 percent said they would support her regardless, while most of the rest opposed her changing parties, she said.
First elected to the state legislature in 2012, Fukumoto became the leader of the small Republican group in the state House of Representatives two years later, only to be removed by her peers in February this year after she spoke out against Trump during the Women’s March on Hawaii the next day. its inauguration.
As of Wednesday, Fukumoto became the only independent among the 45 Democrats and the five remaining Republicans in the state’s lower house, while initiating an application process for membership in the state’s majority party.
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