Anti-Trump Republican eyes party switch in deep-blue Hawaii

Published 10:18 am Thursday, February 2, 2017

HONOLULU — A Republican lawmaker in deep-blue Hawaii is considering switching parties to become a Democrat after she was pressured to give up her leadership role for criticizing President Donald Trump.

Rep. Beth Fukumoto said Republican Party members asked her to resign as Minority Floor Leader after she spoke at the Women’s March in Hawaii.

In her speech she called Trump a bully and said his remarks were racist and sexist and had no place in the Republican Party.

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“I raised concerns that that teaches our kids that it’s OK to be a bully, and I think that should have been a nonpartisan message, but the reaction I got from the party and from my caucus was overwhelmingly negative,” Fukumoto told reporters Wednesday. “The pressure on me is getting greater and greater to just comply with the wishes of the national party, and that’s not my job.”

In Hawaii, there are only six Republican representatives in the House — including Fukumoto — and the state Senate is all Democratic after the lone Republican was voted out of office this year.

The House approved a resolution removing Fukumoto from leadership and naming Rep. Andria Tupola as the new minority leader on a voice vote Wednesday.

“We’re all good, and then she gives the speech at the women’s rally, which was basically an anti-Trump rally,” said Republican Rep. Bob McDermott. “She said our president is a sexist, is a racist, and that we have a bully in the White House. … That is very problematic for the top elected Republican in the state.”

McDermott and others asked Fukumoto to stop criticizing Trump if she wanted to retain her post, he said.

Fukumoto didn’t consider that option.

“I’m being removed because I refuse to make that commitment,” she said in remarks on the House Floor.