Speed Reads

Trading Places

One of Hawaii's few elected Republicans just quit and joined the Democrats

On Wednesday, the number of Republicans in Hawaii's 51-seat House of Representatives dropped from six to five, when former Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto quit the party and applied to become a Democrat. Her Republican colleagues removed her as House GOP leader in early February after Fukumoto, 33, spoke out against President Trump at the Women's March in Hawaii.

Fukumoto, a self-described political moderate of Japanese and Irish descent, said she was bothered during the election when she "saw members of my party marginalizing and condemning minorities, ethnic or otherwise, and making demeaning comments toward women," but the final straw was Trump's talk of a Muslim ban and starting a Muslim-American registry, which she called "one step away" from internment camps. "I wanted very badly to see the Republican Party denounce his comments, and that didn't happen," she told Reuters.

Fukumoto said that before leaving the GOP, she had polled her constituents in a middle-class section of central Oahu, and 76 percent of the people who responded to the questionnaire said they would support her regardless of party, with most of the rest opposing her switch. All 25 seats in the Hawaii Senate are held by Democrats, and the state's governor and entire U.S. congressional delegation are Democrats, too. So Fukumoto's defection, notes poll-cruncher Will Jordan, cost Hawaii's Republican Party 17 percent of their elected officials.