Colleen Hanabusa

Colleen Hanabusa
Colleen Hanabusa official photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 1st district
In office
November 14, 2016 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byMark Takai
Succeeded byEd Case
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2015
Preceded byCharles Djou
Succeeded byMark Takai
11th President of the Hawaii Senate
In office
January 2, 2009 – November 6, 2010
Preceded byRobert Bunda
Succeeded byShan Tsutsui
Member of the Hawaii Senate
from the 21st district
In office
January 20, 1999 – November 6, 2010
Preceded byJames Aki
Succeeded byMaile Shimabukuro
Personal details
Colleen Wakako Hanabusa

(1951-05-04) May 4, 1951 (age 70)
Waianae, Hawaii, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
John Souza
(m. 2004)
EducationUniversity of Hawaii, Manoa (BA, MA, JD)

Colleen Wakako Hanabusa[1] (born May 4, 1951) is an American lawyer and politician who served as the U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 1st congressional district from 2011 to 2015 and again from 2016 to 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, she ran for her party's nomination for governor of Hawaii in 2018, challenging and losing to incumbent and fellow Democrat David Ige.

Before her election to the United States House of Representatives, Hanabusa was a member of the Hawaii Senate.[2] She served as Senate Majority Leader before being elected Hawaii's first female President of the Senate in 2007.[3][4] On August 24, 2011, she announced her intention to run for reelection to Congress.[5] On December 17, 2012, after the death of U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, it was announced that Inouye had sent a letter shortly before his death to Governor Neil Abercrombie, stating his desire that Hanabusa be appointed to the seat. Abercrombie decided against appointing Hanabusa and selected Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz instead.[6][7][8] Hanabusa challenged Schatz in the Democratic primary for the 2014 special election, but narrowly lost.[9]

In 2016, Hanabusa announced her intention to run in the 1st congressional district special election to fill the remaining term of Representative Mark Takai, who died in July 2016; she won the Democratic primary for the race on August 13.[10] Hanabusa also won the election on November 8, 2016 and was sworn in on November 14.[11] In 2017, Hanabusa announced her decision to run for the governorship of Hawaii in 2018 rather than reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives. She lost to incumbent Democratic Governor David Ige in the primary, and Ige was subsequently reelected to a second term. In February 2020, Hanabusa announced her campaign for Mayor of Honolulu in 2020. She placed third in the nonpartisan blanket primary.

Early life and education

A fourth-generation American of Japanese ancestry, Hanabusa grew up in Waiʻanae with her two younger brothers, her parents, and her grandparents. Her parents, Isao and June, owned a gas station.[12] Her maternal grandfather was confined at the Honouliuli Internment Camp on Oahu during World War II.[13] In 1969 she graduated from St. Andrew's Priory. She received a B.A. in economics and sociology in 1973 and an M.A. in sociology in 1975 from the University of Hawai'i and in 1977 received a J.D. from the University of Hawai'i's William S. Richardson School of Law.[14]

Law career

Hanabusa is a labor lawyer with almost 30 years of experience, and a corporate officer in a family-run corporation. She has been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America, Woodward and White, Inc., served as a delegate to the Hawai`i State Judicial Conference, and was noted in Honolulu Magazine as one of Hawai`i's A+ Attorneys in 1993 and subsequent years.

Hawaii Senate

In November 1998 Hanabusa was elected the state senator from the 21st District. The 21st District includes Wai'anae, where her family has resided for four generations, as well as Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Ma'ili, Makaha, Makua and Ka'ena Point.

One of Hanabusa's first acts upon being elected was to organize senators to vote against the second-term confirmation of Hawaii Attorney General Margery Bronster.[14]

Hanabusa served as Senate Majority Leader before being elected the first woman president of the Senate in 2006, making her the first Asian American woman to preside over a state legislative chamber in the United States.[3] In 2003 she was named one of Hawaii's "top ten political power brokers", along with the state's governor and two U.S. senators, by Hawaii Business Magazine.[15]

Hanabusa ran unsuccessfully in a special election held in January 2003 to replace the late Patsy T. Mink as U.S. Representative from Hawai'i's 2nd congressional district, losing to Ed Case, a Blue Dog Democrat.[16] In 2006 she ran for the same seat after Case retired to unsuccessfully challenge Senator Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary. Hanabusa was again unsuccessful, losing in the Democratic primary to former Lieutenant Governor Mazie Hirono by 844 votes.[17]

Leadership positions

  • Serving the Leeward Coast as State Senator since 1998
  • State Senate President since 2007
  • State Senate Majority Leader since 2007
  • Chair, Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee
  • Co-chair, Joint Senate House Task Force on Ice and Drug Abatement
  • Senate's first statewide hearings on Rice v. Cayetano
  • United States Supreme Court decision Co-Chair, Joint Senate House Investigative Committee: Felix Consent Decree
  • 2001 Vice Chair, Senate Ways and Means Committee
  • Vice President, State Senate
  • Chair, Senate Committee on Water, Land, and Hawaiian Affairs[4]

Key legislation introduced

  • 3 R's program for repair and maintenance of schools
  • Repeal of the Van Cam Law
  • Tax credit to enable construction and jobs at Ko Olina
  • Bill to reform election contributions
  • Bill to pay the awards of the Individual Rights Panel-DHHL
  • Bill to require community notice prior to establishing a halfway house
  • Bill for a ceded land inventory Education Initiatives[4]

Ko Olina tax credits

In 2002, while in the State Legislature, Hanabusa emerged as the leading advocate for legislation authorizing $75 million in tax credits for Ko Olina Resort, a move she declared necessary to spur development for the Leeward area, but which others saw as a reward for a close associate and political backer, Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone. When Governor Ben Cayetano vetoed the tax credit bill, Hanabusa took the unprecedented step of suing to overturn the veto.[18][19]

Within months, Hanabusa's then-fiancé John Souza received a preferential deal in purchasing one of Stone's homes in Ko Olina. In February 2005, less than two years after Souza bought the home, he sold it for a $421,000 profit, according to real estate records. Souza and Hanabusa, who were engaged at the time and married in 2008, then bought a $1 million home in another Ko Olina subdivision developed by Centex Homes of Texas.[20]

The Ko Olina tax-credit legislation, intended to promote development of a "world-class" aquarium at the resort, expired after plans for the aquarium were abandoned. Ko Olina Resort eventually returned the tax credit, but the Lingle Administration and Hanabusa disagreed on how to use the returned funds.[21]

U.S. House of Representatives


Hanabusa at the Aloha Floral Parade in 2010

After House GOP leader John Boehner pledged to give incumbent Congressman Charles Djou a seat on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Daniel Inouye said that Democrats would also name Hanabusa to Appropriations.[22] However, House Democratic leadership instead appointed her to the Armed Services and Natural Resources committees.[23]

Hanabusa was the third Buddhist to join the United States Congress, preceded by Hank Johnson of Georgia and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.[24] Her election made Hawaii the only state with a majority non-Christian House delegation. She was a member of the New Democrat Coalition.[25]

She left the House at the end of the 113th Congress to run for US Senate in 2014, losing in the primary. After regaining the seat in 2016, she chose to run in the Democratic primary for governor of Hawaii in 2018, leaving the House again after the 115th Congress.



Hanabusa ran unsuccessfully in the May 22, 2010, special election to serve out the remaining months of former Representative Neil Abercrombie's term; then-City Councilman Charles Djou defeated her without winning a majority of the votes under the rules of the all-party election that split the Democratic vote between Hanabusa and rival Ed Case, a moderate Democrat.[26][27]

U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka supported Hanabusa's special election campaign and backed her again in the September primary. Some in the national Democratic Party indicated a preference for Case, who previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives before an unsuccessful U.S. Senate primary challenge to Akaka in 2006. The national Democratic leadership remained officially neutral.[28][29]

On May 30, 2010, Case, citing his third-place showing in the special election and to avoid a rift among Democrats that could lead to Djou's winning the November election, announced his withdrawal from the race and gave his support to Hanabusa.[30] That made Hanabusa the top Democratic candidate in the September party primary, which she won.[31] Hanabusa subsequently challenged Djou for the same seat and on November 2 won the general election, 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent.[2][32][33]


Although there was some speculation that she would run to succeed retiring Senator Daniel Akaka, Hanabusa opted to run for reelection to Congress.[5] She faced Djou again, and defeated him with 54.6 percent of the vote.


On December 17, 2012, the second-longest serving U.S. Senator in history, Daniel Inouye, who had represented the state of Hawaii since it became a state in 1959, died of respiratory complications.[34] Shortly before his death, Inouye sent Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie a letter requesting that Hanabusa be appointed to his seat for the remainder of his term. Hanabusa submitted her name for consideration to the Democratic Party of Hawaii,[35] which then included her on a list of three candidates for Abercrombie's consideration.[6][7][36] Abercrombie chose Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii Brian Schatz.[8][37] On December 26, 2012, Schatz was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden. On May 2, 2013, Hanabusa announced she would challenge Schatz in the 2014 Democratic primary. She said "Brian was not elected. He was appointed, and I don't think the people have really had an opportunity to weigh in on who they want to represent them in the United States Senate."[38]

In May, Hanabusa was endorsed by Inouye's widow, Irene, who said, "Shortly after she was elected president of the Hawaii State Senate, Dan recognized that Colleen was more than capable of succeeding him and he began to mentor her. His last wish was that Colleen serve out his term because he was confident in her ability to step into the Senate and immediately help Hawaii."[39] Hanabusa's campaign hired many of Inouye's staffers.[40] Polling throughout the campaign was controversially mixed, with each campaign releasing different poll results.[41] In the end, Schatz won narrowly, with 115,401 votes to Hanabusa's 113,632.


Hanabusa being sworn in by Speaker Paul Ryan

In May 2016 Hanabusa's successor in the House, Mark Takai, announced he was not running for reelection that year due to pancreatic cancer. Hanabusa subsequently announced that she would once again run for the seat.[42] Prior to his July 20, 2016, death, Takai endorsed Hanabusa to succeed him.[43] Two weeks after his death, on August 3, Hanabusa announced that she would also run in the special election on November 8, 2016, the same date as the regularly scheduled election, to finish Takai's term in the 114th United States Congress.[44] On August 13 she easily won the Democratic primary for the general election.[45] On October 24 Hanabusa resigned as Chair of the HART Board.[46] She won both the special and general elections with more than 60 percent of the vote.


As a Representative, Hanabusa sponsored 14 bills, including:[47]

112th Congress (2011–2012)

  • H.R. 3320, a bill to increase funds for grants to U.S. owned Pacific islands to offset costs resulting from the residency of people from a Compact of Free Association (COFA) member-state, introduced November 2, 2011. Hanabusa introduced a similar bill, H.R. 1222, in the 113th Congress.

113th Congress (2013–2014)

  • H.R. 912, a bill to allow for Medicaid to provide care to people lawfully residing in a U.S. owned Pacific island who are from a COFA member-state, introduced February 28, 2013
  • H.R. 2225, a bill to change Memorial Day from the last Monday in May to its previous date of May 30, introduced June 3, 2013

In addition to the bills listed above, Hanabusa sponsored several bills relating to Filipino World War II veterans that would, among other things, recognize their efforts in World War II and provide veteran benefits to them.

Committee assignments (115th Congress)

Caucus memberships

Inter-congressional career

After leaving Congress in January 2015, Hanabusa continued with her labor law practice. In June 2015 Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell appointed her to the board of directors of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), the operator of Honolulu Rail Transit,[49] to replace Carrie Okinaga. She became its chairperson in April 2016 and resigned from it in October 2016.[50] She has served on the board of directors for Hawaii Gas since June 2015.[51]

2018 gubernatorial election

Hanabusa decided not to run for reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 and instead ran for statewide office, this time for governor of Hawaii. She challenged incumbent Governor David Ige in the Democratic primary. Based on polling as late as May 2018, she was favored to defeat Ige in the August primary,[52] but Ige won, 50 percent to 43 percent.[53] Fellow Democrat Ed Case ran for and won Hanabusa's House seat, and took office in January 2019.

2020 Honolulu mayoral election

On February 29, 2020, Hanabusa officially launched her campaign for mayor of Honolulu, joining several other candidates for the office.[54] She placed third in the August 2020 nonpartisan blanket primary and endorsed Rick Blangiardi,[55] who won the general election in November.[56]

See also


  1. ^ As pronounced by herself in "Obligation".
  2. ^ a b Goodin, Emily (November 3, 2010). "Dems pick up Hawaii seat". The Hill. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  3. ^ a b EMILY's List (2013), "Colleen Hanabusa", emilyslist.org, retrieved October 27, 2013
  4. ^ a b c "About Colleen", Hanbusa for Hawaii, 2013, archived from the original on September 21, 2013, retrieved October 27, 2013
  5. ^ a b Blair, Chad (August 24, 2011), "No Senate Run for Hanabusa", Honolulu Civil Beat, Peer News, retrieved August 25, 2011
  6. ^ a b Isenstadt, Alex (December 17, 2012), "Colleen Hanabusa favorite for Daniel Inouye seat", Politico.com, retrieved October 27, 2013
  7. ^ a b "Inouye gave preference for successor before he died", CNN PoliticalTicker, December 18, 2012, retrieved October 27, 2013
  8. ^ a b Glueck, Katie (December 27, 2012), "Brian Schatz chosen to replace Daniel Inouye", Politico.com, retrieved October 27, 2013
  9. ^ Cheney, Kyle; Dovere, Edward-Isaac (August 16, 2014). "Brian Schatz edges Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii primary". Politico. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
  10. ^ "Schatz, Hanabusa, Gabbard Win Hawaii Democratic Primaries". www.rafu.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  11. ^ Duran, Nicole (November 14, 2016). "Three House lawmakers sworn in just before Congress ends". Washington Examiner.
  12. ^ "About Colleen Hanabusa". Archived from the original on 2018-07-17.
  13. ^ "Rep. Hanabusa Comments on Anniversary of Forced Relocation of Japanese Americans". Big Island Now. February 20, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Rees, Robert M. (June 12, 2002), "Queen of the Senate", Honolulu Weekly, archived from the original on September 27, 2011
  15. ^ "Hawaii's Powerbrokers (List)", Honolulu Business Magazine, October 2003, archived from the original on July 20, 2011, retrieved May 14, 2010
  16. ^ Gima, Craig (January 6, 2003), "Victorious Case sees end of old-style politics", Honolulu Star-Bulletin, retrieved January 7, 2011
  17. ^ Reyes, B.J. (September 25, 2006), "Statewide name recognition gives Hirono the advantage", Honolulu Star-Bulletin, retrieved January 7, 2011
  18. ^ Pang, Gordon Y.K. (August 29, 2006), "Is 2nd time charm for U.S. House candidate?", Honolulu Advertiser, retrieved May 14, 2010
  19. ^ Dooley, Jim (March 4, 2004), "Senator sees no conflict in many ties to Ko Olina", Honolulu Advertiser, retrieved June 28, 2010
  20. ^ Dooley, Jim (October 28, 2010), "Exclusive Report: Close Ties Between Congressional Candidate Colleen Hanabusa and Ko Olina Developer Rake in Funds", Hawaii Reporter, retrieved February 7, 2011
  21. ^ Kua, Crystal (January 18, 2007), "Ko Olina Resort returns tax credit of $75 million", Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 12 (18), retrieved May 14, 2010
  22. ^ "Inouye: Hanabusa would win appropriations spot", Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Associated Press, October 20, 2010, retrieved February 7, 2011
  23. ^ "Hanabusa appointed to armed services and natural resources committees", Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Associated Press, January 19, 2011, retrieved February 7, 2011
  24. ^ "Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 114th Congress". Pew Research Center. January 5, 2015. Retrieved September 13, 2016. The number of Buddhists in Congress fell from three to two, as Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, lost her bid for a Senate seat.
  25. ^ "Members". New Democrat Coalition. Archived from the original on 8 February 2018. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  26. ^ DePledge, Derrick (January 14, 2010), "Hawaii candidates for Congress outline policy differences", Honolulu Advertiser, retrieved March 5, 2011
  27. ^ DePledge, Derrick (May 24, 2010), "Election results show Djou's appeal outside East Honolulu", Honolulu Advertiser, retrieved January 7, 2011
  28. ^ DePledge, Derrick (May 6, 2010), "Hanabusa defies polls, will stay in race", Honolulu Advertiser, retrieved January 7, 2011
  29. ^ DePledge, Derrick (January 10, 2010), "Senators boost Hanabusa", Honolulu Advertiser, retrieved March 5, 2011
  30. ^ DePledge, Derrick (May 31, 2010), "Case stuns with withdrawal from Hawaii congressional primary", Honolulu Advertiser, retrieved February 7, 2011
  31. ^ Star-Advertiser staff (September 19, 2010), "Djou and Hanabusa have rematch Nov. 2", Honolulu Star-Advertiser, retrieved February 7, 2011
  32. ^ "House Map – Election Results 2010 – The New York Times", New York Times, retrieved February 7, 2011
  33. ^ Reyes, B.J. (November 4, 2010), "Hanabusa sweeps districts", Honolulu Star-Advertiser, retrieved February 7, 2011
  34. ^ Elving, Ron; Block, Melissa (December 17, 2012), "Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye Dies At 88 Of Respiratory Complications", NPR.org, retrieved October 27, 2013
  35. ^ Wong, Scott (December 19, 2012), "Hanabusa to apply for Inouye's Hawaii Senate seat", Politico.com, retrieved October 27, 2013
  36. ^ DePledge, Derrick; Reyes, B.J. (December 27, 2012), "Mr. Schatz goes to Washington", Honolulu Star-Advertiser, retrieved October 27, 2013 (subscription required)
  37. ^ Blair, Chad (December 26, 2012), "Why Abercrombie Didn't Pick Hanabusa", Honolulu Civil Beat, Peer News, retrieved October 27, 2013
  38. ^ Garcia, Oskar (May 2, 2013), "Hanabusa announces US Senate run in Hawaii", Yahoo News, Associated Press, retrieved October 27, 2013
  39. ^ Schultheis, Emily (May 3, 2013), "Daniel Inouye's widow endorses Colleen Hanabusa over Brian Schatz", Politico.com, retrieved October 27, 2013
  40. ^ Blair, Chad; Grube, Nick (June 24, 2013), "Can Inouye's Ghost Take Down Sen. Brian Schatz?", Honolulu Civil Beat, Peer News, retrieved October 27, 2013
  41. ^ Burns, Alexander (July 3, 2013), "Hawaii Dems clash on 2014 polls", Politico.com, retrieved October 27, 2013
  42. ^ Dayton, Kevin (May 25, 2016). "Hanabusa to run for U.S. House to succeed Takai". Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
  43. ^ Daysog, Rick (May 29, 2016). "Takai endorses Hanabusa in congressional race". Hawaii News Now.
  44. ^ Dayton, Kevin (August 3, 2016). "Special-election winner will finish Takai's term". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  45. ^ Cole, William (August 13, 2016). "Schatz, Hanabusa, Gabbard cruise to victory in congressional races". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  46. ^ Honoré, Marcel (October 28, 2016). "Longtime construction executive to replace Hanabusa on HART board". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  47. ^ "Representative Hanabusa's Legislation". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  48. ^ "Members". Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  49. ^ "Hanabusa Picked to Help Monitor Honolulu Rail Project". 1 June 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  50. ^ 28, 2016 October; 28, 2016 Updated October; 11:25am, 2016. "Longtime construction executive to replace Hanabusa on HART board". Retrieved 2017-03-01.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  51. ^ "Hawaii Gas names Colleen Hanabusa, Colbert Matsumoto, Catherine Ngo to board of directors – Pacific Business News". Pacific Business News. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  52. ^ Eagle, Nathan (May 22, 2018). "Poll: Hanabusa Leads Ige By 6 As Primary Draws Closer". Civil Beat. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  53. ^ "Primary Election 2018 – State of Hawaii – Statewide" (PDF). Hawaii Office of Elections. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  54. ^ "Hanabusa officially launches campaign for Honolulu mayor". Hawaii News Now. February 29, 2020. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
  55. ^ "Colleen Hanabusa endorses Rick Blangiardi over Keith Amemiya for mayor". Honolulu Star Advertiser. August 17, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  56. ^ Pang, Gordon Y.K. (November 3, 2020). "Rick Blangiardi wins Honolulu mayor's race". Honolulu Star Advertiser. Retrieved December 5, 2020.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Charles Djou
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 1st congressional district

January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2015
Succeeded by
Mark Takai
Preceded by
Mark Takai
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 1st congressional district

November 14, 2016 – January 3, 2019
Succeeded by
Ed Case

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