Hawaii State Rep. Beth Fukumoto doesn’t have plans to leave politics anytime soon.
On Wednesday, Fukumoto announced that she would resign from the Republican Party and seek to join the Democrats. Fukumoto was a young leader in the state’s Republican party, becoming the minority leader of the Hawaii House in 2014. But after speaking out against President Donald Trump and attending the Women’s March on Washington in Honolulu, her colleagues ousted her from the post. Only one of her Republican colleagues, State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, opposed the move. (Republican State Rep. Andria Tupola, who replaced her as minority leader, has said that leaders had been discussing removing Fukumoto from her post for two years and her comments about President Trump didn’t play a role in their decision.)
After consulting her constituents, Fukumoto decided to leave the party altogether. In a phone interview with Motto on Thursday, Fukumoto discussed her decision, some of the criticism she has faced and sexism in politics.
What caused you to leave the Republican party?
There have been ongoing problems between me and the party. As I’ve been moving up and taking different leadership positions, I’ve had experiences that made me feel like there were elements of both racism and sexism coming into play in both our decision-making and our elections. That has concerned me for some time. I thought that we could turn that around because Hawaii is such a diverse state. I thought that we could be a party that was more welcoming to minorities and that we could be a model for Republican parties in rest of the country. I don’t think the current Republican strategy of building walls and implementing travel bans is going to stop the changing demographics. America will change, and it will be more diverse. And the Republican party is going to be in bad shape if it doesn’t change. I believed that, in Hawaii, we could create a party that actually listened to minority voices.