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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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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