Republican-turned-Democrat Beth Fukumoto announces bid for Congress

A year after formally leaving the Republican Party, Hawaii State Rep. Beth Fukumoto announced late Wednesday night she will run for U.S. Congress.

In an email to supporters, Fukumoto thanked her supporters for inspiring her work and addressed the need to navigate "a toxic partisan divide" in order to best represent Hawaii.

Fukumoto made headlines early last year when she was ousted as House minority leader, a role she held since 2014 when she became the youngest person to serve in that position. Calls for her resignation, she said, began within a day of her speaking at the Women's March in Honolulu.

"For me and my experience during the Women's March, I had no idea how many people were frustrated and fed up with the current system until I had to face that system and really was beaten down by it," Fukumoto, now a Democrat, said. "I've been looking around, for the last few months, I've thought, 'That's what I want to be' — to be a voice for people who need a voice."

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Rising political stars to watch in 2018

Randy Bryce (D)

Bryce made waves earlier this year when he announced he would run against House Speaker Paul Ryan in the 2018 midterm elections. Bryce, a Democrat, is a U.S. Army veteran, cancer survivor and union ironworker.

Rep. Scott Taylor, (R-VA)

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Rep. Seth Moulton, (D-MA)

39-year-old Seth Moulton has increasingly emerged as a prominent House member and one to watch within the Democratic party. He served four tours of duty in Iraq and notably serves as the. Recently, he has advocated for "a new generation" of Democratic leadership.

Rep. Chris Collins, (R-NY)

Collins was elected to represent New York's 27th district on Capitol Hill in 2012, and has since positioned himself as a vocal right-wing defender within the Republican party. He also came out as one of President Trump's most vocal supporters leading up to an after the 2016 election.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.)

Krishnamoorthi was elected in 2016 -- making him one of the more freshman lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Still, the former lawyer with a past of aiding the Obama administration has played an integral role this year in congressional investigations into the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia. As a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he has taken many opportunities to speak critically of the clearance aides like Jared Kushner have -- and has firmly positioned himself as a staunch opponent of GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK)

As one of 21 women currently serving in the U.S. Senate, Murkowski has positioned herself as a more moderate leader within the Republican party. Murkowski refused to toe the party line on an attempted Obamacare repeal earlier this year, and has since raised skepticism over specific elements of the GOP tax bill and Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Rep. Charlie Crist, (D-Fla.)

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Sen. Tom Cotton, (R-AR)

As the youngest U.S. senator, Cotton's political future currently looks very bright. As one of the few Capitol Hill lawmakers that has yet to have a public feud -- on Twitter or otherwise -- with President Trump, Cotton was recently on the shortlist to replace Mike Pompeo as CIA director if Pompeo replaced Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, (D-NV)

Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate.

Governor-elect Ralph Northam (D-VA)

Northam was elected governor of Virginia in the series of "anti-Trump" Election Day victories Democrats celebrated in Nov. 2017. Northam's victory over Ed Gillespie signaled a potential shift in the oft-fraught over Virginia battleground state -- and Northam's gubernatorial tenure will be one to eye in the context of midterms and the 2020 presidential election.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY)

Many who watch politics closely have noted Gillibrand as one to watch since she was appointed to Hillary Clinton's former Senate seat in 2009, and then elected in 2012. Early in her Senate career, Gillibrand used her position as a member of the Committee on Armed Services to chalk up a major legislative win by championing the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Gillibrand has also recently spoken out against sexual harassment allegations stemming from both Democratic and Republican offices -- calling on both Sen. Al Franken and President Trump to resign.


Fukumoto began exploring a congressional run last November, telling NBC News at the time it was clear that there was a need for more women in government. Since leaving the Republican Party, Fukumoto added that her constituents have been supportive, regardless of her political affiliation.

"People don't think their government is representing them aside from some here or there. People said when they read about me or heard me speak, they heard someone speaking for them, and they were hearing their voice," she said.

Fukumoto joins a growing field of candidates seeking to replace Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, also a Democrat, who is running for governor. Among the list of hopefuls vying for Hanabusa's seat is former Hawaii attorney general Lt. Gov. Douglas Chin, whose fight against President Donald Trump's travel ban and other policies has put him in the national spotlight over the past year.

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