Hawaiian Republican punished for criticising Donald Trump plans defection to Democrats

Richard Cosgrove
Hawaii state legislature

A Hawaiian Republican politician may defect to the Democrats after being punished for criticising Trump.

Republicans in Hawaii's House of Representatives have voted out their party's leader, after demanding that she stop criticising President Donald Trump.

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Beth Fukumoto, speaking in the House, said that she had been told by some of her GOP colleagues that she would be ousted as the party's leader in Hawaii, unless she stopped speaking out against Trump.

The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that Fukumoto was voted out of her leadership position by three of the other six Republicans who make up the GOP contingent of Hawaii's House of Representatives. One abstained.

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The changes were made official in a House floor session on Wednesday, 1 February.

The 33 year-old politician told the House, "They [her GOP colleagues] told me they would keep me [as the GOP's House leader] if I would commit to not disagreeing with our president for the remainder of his term.

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"Mr Speaker, I'm being removed because I refused to make that commitment, because I believe it's our job as Americans and as leaders in this body to criticize power when power is wrong."

The same day, Fukumoto's office released a statement saying: "In the last couple years, I've watched leaders in the Republican Party become less and less tolerant of diverse opinions and dissenting voices.

"Today, I'm facing demands for my resignation from leadership and possible censure because I raised concerns about our president's treatment of women and minorities. I've been asked by both my party and my caucus to commit to not criticizing the president for the remainder of his term and to take a more partisan approach to working in the legislature. That is not a commitment I can make. As a representative of my community, it is my job to hold leaders accountable and to work with anyone, regardless of party, to make Hawaii a better place for our families."

Fukumoto spoke at a Woman's March event held in Hawaii. According to an NPR report, she said she had been booed and insulted at a GOP convention for not endorsing Trump's candidacy as president.

The single Republican who voted to support Fukumoto, Cynthia Thielen, told the House floor, "God I am sorry to lose our minority leader, someone I so deeply, deeply respect – the face of Republicanism as it should be, but it won't be any more."

Fukumoto was seen as one of the rising stars in the Republican party, who could have attracted a younger demographic to the political party. Currently, there are only seven members of the Republican party in Hawaii's state legislature, including Fukumoto.

Fukumoto told local media that she has written to her constituents, to ask if they would support her changing her party affiliation to the Democrats.

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