Mazie Keiko Hirono became the first Asian immigrant to be elected lieutenant governor of a state of the United States in 1994.
Mazie Keiko Hirono, born November 3, 1947 in Fukushima, Japan, is an American politician who was the first Asian immigrant elected lieutenant governor of a state of the United States. A career Democrat, she ran against Linda Lingle for Governor of Hawai'i in 2002, one of the few gubernatorial races in United States history where two major parties nominated women to challenge each other.
In 1955, Hirono's mother escaped an abusive marriage by emigrating to the United States with her children. Raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Hirono attended Kaahumanu Elementary and Koko Head Elementary Schools. She later graduated from Kaimuki High School which at the time of her attendance had a predominantly Japanese American student body. Upon graduating from high school, Hirono enrolled at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa where she received her bachelor of arts degree. She left Hawai'i briefly to attend Georgetown University Law School. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and obtained her doctorate of jurisprudence. Hirono quickly returned to Honolulu where she practiced law.
From 1980 to 1994, Hirono served in the Hawai'i State Legislature serving her district in the House of Representatives. During her legislative tenure, she passed over 120 laws. She was honored by a coalition of leaseholders as Legislator of the Year in 1984. From 1987 to 1992, she was the chairman of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee.
Ed Case, D.G. Anderson and Mazie Keiko Hirono debated each other on KHON, September 5, 2002, for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in one of the closest primary races in state history.
In 1994, she joined the ticket of incumbent Lieutenant Governor Benjamin J. Cayetano and was consequently elected to a historic administration led by the first Filipino American governor and first Japanese immigrant lieutenant governor. During her tenure as lieutenant governor, Hirono was also President of the National Commission on Teaching, America's Future as well as the Hawai'i Policy Group. She also spearheaded the first-in-the-nation comprehensive Pre-Plus program, a precursor to universal pre-school education in the United States.
Gubernatorial Campaign of 2002
With her time as Lieutenant Governor coming to an end, Hirono formed a campaign structure as she set his sights on becoming the next Mayor of Honolulu in a 2002 special election to fill a vacancy to be created by Jeremy Harris' entry in the gubernatorial election. Hawai'i residents were shocked, considering his high polling numbers, when Harris abruptly dropped from the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Hirono maneuvered to gain the support of potential Harris voters in her challenge against former Hawai'i State House of Representatives Majority Leader Ed Case and former Republican Chairman D. G. Anderson for the Democratic ticket. Through the entire primary campaign season, Hirono and Case polled almost equally. Case appealed to Hawai'i residents that his campaign was one of government reform as opposed to Hirono whom Case alleged represented the "Old Boys' Network" of Democrats that had ruled over Hawai'i for forty years.
In one of the closest primary elections for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Hirono beat Case. Hirono ran against former Republican Mayor of Maui Linda Lingle in the general election. Lingle's campaign of reform called Agenda for New Beginnings appealed to voters and elected her governor.
- Democratic Party of Hawai'i (http://www.hawaiidemocrats.org/)