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Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa

Representing the 1st District of Hawaii

Biography

Colleen Wakako Hanabusa, the great-grandaughter of Japanese immigrants who came to Hawai to work on the sugar plantations, proudly represents Hawaii's First Congressional District.

Colleen was born in Honolulu and raised in Wai‘anae on Oahu's West Side. Her parents, Isao and June Hanabusa, ran Hanabusa Gas Station on Farrington Highway. Colleen's maternal grandfather, Grandpa Muroda was a carpenter who helped build the irrigation system that brought water to the sugarcane fields. Her paternal grandparents made tofu and fished. Grandpa Hanabusa sold their goods to the workers on the Waianae Sugar Plantation.

Grandpa Hanabusa and Grandpa Muroda helped nurture the Buddhist faith among the workers and in the Japanese American communities along the Waianae Coast. They were co-founding members of the Waianae Hongwanji Mission. Their efforts drew the ire of the United States government shortly after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Colleen's grandfathers were among the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II.

Her grandparents shared stories of their time in the camps. Those lessons drove Colleen to fight for equality and against racism and bigotry.

She graduated from St. Andrew’s Priory School, Honolulu, Hawaii in 1969, and was awarded a Bachelors of Arts from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, Hawaii in 1973, a Masters of Arts from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, Hawaii in 1975 and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1977.   

An attorney by profession, she was a member of the Hawaii State Senate from 1998 through 2010 and served as Senate President (Hawaii’s first female Senate President) from 2007 to 2010. 

In 2010, she was elected as a Democrat to the One Hundred Twelfth (112th) and to the succeeding One Hundred Thirteenth (113th) Congresses (January 3, 2011 - January 3, 2015).   In 2015, Representative Hanabusa returned to the practice of law and became a Board Member and, subsequently, Chair, of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, (January 2015 - November 7, 2016).  In 2016, she was elected simultaneously as a Democrat to the One Hundred Fourteenth (114th) Congress by special election, to fill the vacancy created by the death of United States Representative Mark Takai, and to the One Hundred Fifteenth (115th) Congress, where she currently serves Hawaii’s First Congressional District.

Copngresswoman Hanabusa lives on Oahu with her husband, John Souza. They have a dog, “Frannie,” who not only keeps them busy, but watches t.v. with a preference for the animal channels.