|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Hawaii's 1st district
November 14, 2016 - January 3, 2019
January 3, 2011 - January 3, 2015
|11th President of the Hawaii Senate|
January 2, 2009 - November 6, 2010
|Member of the Hawaii Senate|
from the 21st district
January 20, 1999 - November 6, 2010
Colleen Wakako Hanabusa
May 4, 1951
Waianae, Hawaii, U.S.
John Souza (m. 2004)
|Education||University of Hawaii, Manoa (BA, MA, JD)|
Colleen Wakako Hanabusa (born May 4, 1951) is an American politician who served as the U.S. Representative from Hawaii's 1st congressional district from 2011 to 2015 and again from 2016 to 2019. She is a member of the Democratic Party and ran for her party's nomination for governor of Hawaii in 2018, challenging and losing to incumbent Governor and fellow Democrat David Ige.
Before her election to the United States House of Representatives, Hanabusa was a member of the Hawaii Senate. She served as the Senate Majority Leader before being elected Hawaii's first female president of the state senate in 2007. On August 24, 2011, she announced her intention to run for reelection to Congress.
On December 17, 2012, after the death of Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, it was announced that Inouye had sent a letter shortly before his death to Hawaii 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. Hanabusa challenged Schatz in the Democratic primary for the 2014 special election, but narrowly lost.
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, and she won the Democratic primary for the race on August 13. Hanabusa also won the election on November 8, 2016, and was sworn in on November 14.
In 2017 Hanabusa announced her decision to run for governor of Hawaii in 2018 rather than reelection to the House. She lost to incumbent Democratic Governor David Ige in the primary. Ige was subsequently reelected to a second term.
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. Her maternal grandfather was confined at the Honouliuli Internment Camp on Oahu during World War II. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
When State Representative Glenn Wakai introduced legislation to prevent the eating of dogs and cats, Hanabusa refused to hold hearings on it in the State Senate Judiciary Committee, preventing it from passing.
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.
While in Congress, Hanabusa was called a "loan shark" by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for abusing her position to pay herself excessive interest to settling her campaign debt. Hanabusa's spokesperson said these payments were merely repayment of a bank loan.
In January 2013 Hanabusa appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, where she criticized a derogatory comment O'Reilly made toward Asians. O'Reilly condemned her for not having seen the program in which he made his statement, even though his comment was still widely considered offensive. O'Reilly had previously commented on various social issues in Hawaii.
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. However, House Democratic leadership instead appointed her to the Armed Services and Natural Resources committees.
Hanabusa was the third Buddhist to join the United States Congress, preceded by Hank Johnson of Georgia and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. Herelection made Hawaii the only state with a majority non-Christian House delegation. She was a member of the New Democrat Coalition.
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.
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.
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. That made Hanabusa the top Democratic candidate in the September party primary, which she won. Hanabusa subsequently challenged Djou for the same seat and on November 2 won the general election, 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent.
Although there was some speculation that she would run to succeed retiring Senator Daniel Akaka, Hanabusa opted to run for reelection to Congress. 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. 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, which then included her on a list of three candidates for Abercrombie's consideration. Abercrombie chose Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii Brian Schatz. 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."
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." Hanabusa's campaign hired many of Inouye's staffers. Polling throughout the campaign was controversially mixed, with each campaign releasing different poll results. In the end, Schatz won narrowly, with 115,401 votes to Hanabusa's 113,632.
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. Prior to his July 20, 2016, death, Takai endorsed Hanabusa to succeed him. 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. On August 13 she easily won the Democratic primary for the general election. On October 24 Hanabusa resigned as Chair of the HART Board. She won both the special and general elections with more than 60 percent of the vote.
As a Representative, Hanabusa sponsored 14 bills, including:
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.
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, to replace Carrie Okinaga. She became its chairperson in April 2016 and resigned from it in October 2016. She has served on the board of directors for Hawaii Gas since June 2015.
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, but Ige won, 50 percent to 43 percent. Fellow Democrat Ed Case ran for and won Hanabusa's House seat, and took office in January 2019.
The number of Buddhists in Congress fell from three to two, as Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, lost her bid for a Senate seat.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 1st congressional district
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 1st congressional district