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Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D)

Colleen Hanabusa Contact
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Email: n/a
DC Contact Information

Phone: 202-225-2726

Address: 238 CHOB, DC 20515

Colleen Hanabusa Biography
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  • Elected: 2010, 2nd term.
  • District: Hawaii 1
  • Born: May. 04, 1951, Honolulu
  • Home: Ko Olina
  • Education:

    U. of HI, B.A. 1973, M.A. 1975, J.D. 1977.

  • Professional Career:

    Labor atty., 1978-2010.

  • Political Career:

    HI Senate, 1998-2010.

  • Religion:


  • Family: Married (John Souza)

Colleen Hanabusa, who won the 1st District seat in 2010, is a veteran of Hawaii politics and a favorite of the state’s Democratic establishment. In her short time in the House, she has had three opportunities to move to the Senate. But she declined to run for retiring Democrat Daniel Akaka’s seat and was passed over when Democrat Daniel Inouye died, despite his endorsement. She then challenged Sen. Brian Schatz in the August 2014 primary, only to narrowly lose. Read More

Colleen Hanabusa, who won the 1st District seat in 2010, is a veteran of Hawaii politics and a favorite of the state’s Democratic establishment. In her short time in the House, she has had three opportunities to move to the Senate. But she declined to run for retiring Democrat Daniel Akaka’s seat and was passed over when Democrat Daniel Inouye died, despite his endorsement. She then challenged Sen. Brian Schatz in the August 2014 primary, only to narrowly lose.

Hanabusa is a Yonsei, a fourth-generation American of Japanese ancestry. Both of her grandfathers were among the more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans forcibly relocated and interned after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. She was raised on a sugar plantation by her maternal grandmother while her parents worked long hours running a gas station in Waianae. She learned the value of hard work, she said, telling National Journal that “chipping in to get people through a hard time is very much a part of the plantation lifestyle.” While young, she learned ikebana, the Japanese art of flower and plant arrangement that has a strong spiritual component. In ikebana, she says, if the core piece isn’t well placed and balanced, the arrangement falls apart. “What I learned from that has always stuck with me,” Hanabusa says. She graduated from the University of Hawaii with a bachelor’s degree in economics and sociology and a master’s degree in sociology, and went on to get a law degree from the William S. Richardson School of Law.

Elected to the Hawaii Senate in 1998, Hanabusa served for 12 years, rising in 2007 to Senate president and becoming the first woman to lead either house of Hawaii’s legislature. One of her signature issues was education, including the creation of charter schools for underserved children and improving special education programs. Hanabusa, who has joined Republican colleagues on a local conservative talk radio show, says that her legislative experience “taught me cooperation and the ability to collaborate.”

When 10-term Rep. Neil Abercrombie left Congress to run for governor in 2010, Hanabusa was the early favorite of the state’s Democratic establishment in the May special election. But former Rep. Ed Case also jumped in, disrupting the plans of kingmaker Sens. Inouye and Akaka, both long-serving Democrats who backed Hanabusa and held a grudge against Case for challenging Akaka in the Senate primary in 2006. With Case siphoning off Democratic votes, Hanabusa finished second to Djou. He won 40% to Hanabusa’s 31% and Case’s 28%.

Djou had to run again in November to earn a full, two-year term. Hanabusa came back for a rematch, and this time, Case stayed out. Hanabusa sailed to an easy victory in the primary, and then had a one-on-one shot at Djou in the general election. Both candidates were well financed, with Djou raising almost $2.7 million to Hanabusa’s $2.4 million. Hanabusa was a stand-up supporter of Obama’s policies while many other Democrats in tough contests distanced themselves. She was a robust defender of the health care overhaul that Democrats pushed through Congress, calling health care a “right” and the legislation a first step toward universal health insurance.

Her positions stood in sharp contrast to Djou’s. He attacked wasteful federal spending and supported a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. He also said he would seek a moratorium on congressional earmarks. He was more moderate on social issues, and was one of only five House Republicans to back repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation barring openly gay men and women from the military. But this time, Hanabusa won, 53% to 47%. (The union United Public Workers agreed in 2012 to pay a $5,500 penalty to the Federal Election Commission for not reporting more than $40,000 in spending on her behalf.)

In the House, Hanabusa has proved to be only slightly less liberal than her colleague, Mazie Hirono, who moved up to the Senate in 2013. But she angered liberal environmentalists when, in October 2011, she was one of 41 Democrats to join all Republicans in blocking the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule from taking effect. She said the move would have shut down a sugar mill and affected 800 jobs. The Senate later defeated the measure, with both Inouye and Akaka opposing it.

She blasted Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly in January 2013 for arguing that Asian-Americans, who strongly backed President Obama, are not liberal by nature because they are “hard-working and industrious.” She called his statement “the kind of one-dimensional and paternalistic attitude that we should have gotten past decades ago.”

On the Natural Resources Committee, she unsuccessfully sought in May 2011 to amend a Republican oil-drilling bill to require companies to submit a worst-case oil discharge plan. On her other committee, Armed Services, she served on a panel looking at the defense industry’s business challenges, and worked to include a recommendation to establish an advocate for small businesses at defense agencies as well as require an independent assessment of the Pentagon’s small business participation.

After Akaka announced his retirement, Hanabusa considered running for the Senate but chose to avoid creating a divisive primary situation, enabling Hirono to eventually win the seat. Djou came back for a rematch in 2012, but faced long odds in a year in which favorite son Obama was on the ballot and in which Hanabusa raised nearly twice as much as he did. She won with 55% of the vote.

When Inouye died in office a month later, he reportedly said on his deathbed that he wanted Hanabusa, who considered the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman a mentor, to take his place. But the iconoclastic Abercrombie, who had a strained relationship with Inouye, instead named Schatz, his ambitious lieutenant governor, to the seat. In explaining his decision, Abercrombie cited his desire to have Hanabusa accumulate more seniority on Armed Services, a committee on which he had served in the House, to help the state.

Hanabusa decided to challenge Schatz in the August 2014 Democratic primary, arguing that voters, and not the governor, should have an opportunity to pick the state's senator. She waged an unusually bitter campaign against Schatz, seeking to paint him as someone who wasn't up to the intellectual demands of the job. Schatz, however, picked up numerous endorsements, including a crucial one from popular native son Obama, and raised considerably more money. At a July debate, he noted that Hanabusa had passed just one of the 28 bills she had introduced.

The Aug. 9 primary was held following a tropical storm that damaged parts of Hawaii, preventing two precincts from voting. State election officials said that a make-up election would be held there the following Friday; Hanabusa filed a legal challenge contending those areas were insufficiently recovered to have voters cast ballots, but a judge struck her challenge. Schatz was able to extend his earlier narrow lead and finish ahead by 1,769 votes out of a statewide total of more than 237,000 ballots cast.

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Colleen Hanabusa Election Results
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2012 General
Colleen Hanabusa (D)
Votes: 116,505
Percent: 54.61%
Djou (R)
Votes: 96,824
Percent: 45.39%
2012 Primary
Colleen Hanabusa (D)
Votes: 92,136
Percent: 84.14%
Roy Wyttenbach (D)
Votes: 17,369
Percent: 15.86%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (53%)
Colleen Hanabusa Votes and Bills
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National Journal’s rating system is an objective method of analyzing voting. The liberal score means that the lawmaker’s votes were more liberal than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The conservative score means his votes were more conservative than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The composite score is an average of a lawmaker’s six issue-based scores. See all NJ Voting

More Liberal
More Conservative
2013 2012 2011
Economic 70 (L) : 29 (C) 74 (L) : 26 (C) 83 (L) : 17 (C)
Social 79 (L) : 16 (C) 68 (L) : 32 (C) 80 (L) : - (C)
Foreign 66 (L) : 32 (C) 63 (L) : 37 (C) 76 (L) : 23 (C)
Composite 73.0 (L) : 27.0 (C) 68.3 (L) : 31.7 (C) 83.2 (L) : 16.8 (C)
Interest Group Ratings

The vote ratings by 10 special interest groups provide insight into a lawmaker’s general ideology and the degree to which he or she agrees with the group’s point of view. Two organizations provide just one combined rating for 2011 and 2012, the two sessions of the 112th Congress. They are the ACLU and the ITIC. About the interest groups.

Key House Votes

The key votes show how a member of Congress voted on the major bills of the year. N indicates a "no" vote; Y a "yes" vote. If a member voted "present" or was absent, the bill caption is not shown. For a complete description of the bills included in key votes, see the Almanac's Guide to Usage.

    • Pass GOP budget
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • End fiscal cliff
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Extend payroll tax cut
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Stop student loan hike
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Repeal health care
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Raise debt limit
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Pass cut, cap, balance
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Defund Planned Parenthood
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Repeal lightbulb ban
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Add endangered listings
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Speed troop withdrawal
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
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The Almanac is a members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics. Comprehensive online profiles include biographical and political summaries of elected officials, campaign expenditures, voting records, interest-group ratings, and congressional staff look-ups. In-depth overviews of each state and house district are included as well, along with demographic data, analysis of voting trends, and political histories.
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