Mazie Hirono was born on November 3, 1947, in Fukushima, Japan. When she was almost eight years old, she and her siblings were brought to Hawaii by their mother, who was trying to escape an abusive husband.
In 1970, Hirono earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM), where she had participated in a number of anti-Vietnam War protests and experienced what she would later characterize as a “political awakening.” Also during her college years, Hirono read Betty Friedan‘s The Feminine Mystique, which she credits as having been “the most influential” book to which she was exposed as a student.
After earning a JD at Georgetown Law School in 1978, Hirono took a job in the antitrust division of the Hawaii attorney general’s office. In 1980 she ran successfully for a seat in the Hawaii House of Representatives — a post she held until 1994, the year she was elected as the state’s lieutenant governor.
In 2002, Hirono ran for governor of Hawaii but was defeated by Republican Linda Lingle. Two years later, Hirono founded the Patsy T. Mink Political Action Committee, named after the first nonwhite minority woman ever elected to Congress (1965). This PAC’s mission is to help elect “progressive pro-choice Democratic women” to public office in the state of Hawaii.
In 2006 the voters of Hawaii’s Second Congressional District elected Hirono to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she promptly joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Six years after that, Hirono became the first Asian-American woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate, where she has occupied seats on several powerful committees and subcommittees, including the Armed Services Committee, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Subcommittee on Seapower, and the Subcommittee on the Constitution.
Hirono was a determined opponent of Republican Donald Trump from the moment of his 2016 election to the White House. When Trump in September 2017 announced his wish to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which had been put into effect by a 2012 executive action through which then-President Barack Obama provided many illegal aliens with temporary work authorization as well as protection from deportation — Hirono condemned Trump’s “cruel and unnecessary” effort to “attack minority communities and stoke the fear and divisiveness that served as pillars of his campaign and inform his presidency.”
In October 2017, Hirono denounced President Trump’s decision to decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) — a 2015 accord whereby the Obama administration (and the governments of five other nations) had agreed to allow the Islamist regime in Tehran to enrich uranium, build advanced centrifuges, purchase ballistic missiles, fund terrorism, and be guaranteed of a near-zero breakout time to the construction of a nuclear bomb approximately a decade down the road. “In making the dangerous, political decision to decertify Iran’s compliance with the agreement, Donald Trump is jeopardizing our national security by undermining the harsh restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program established by JCPOA,” Hirono stated.
In December 2017, less than a year into Trump’s presidency, Hirono — in light of renewed allegations by three women claiming that Trump had inappropriately fondled or groped them years earlier — called for the president to step down from office: “[T]he only way to stop this president that has a narcissistic need for attention — he’s a misogynist and admitted sexual predator and a liar — the only thing that will stop him from attacking us — because nobody is safe — is his resignation.”
In January 2018, Hirono accused Trump of racism after the president had reportedly asked, during a White House meeting with a handful of U.S. senators, why the United States was accepting immigrants from “sh**hole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador, and certain nations in Africa. On CNN’s New Day, Hirono said: “He made clear that … he wants, basically, [only] white people to come to our country.”
Hirono was among the many Democrats who in 2018 condemned President Trump for presiding over an asylum policy that allegedly “separated” children from their illegal-alien parents at the U.S.-Mexico border in a most traumatic manner. But contrary to Hirono’s implication, the so-called “separation” policy dated back to the Obama administration, when California federal district court judge Dolly Gee, an Obama appointee, ruled in 2015 that children apprehended while crossing the border illegally, whether or not they were accompanied by an adult, could not be detained for more than 20 days. The government’s only alternatives, then, would be to either “separate” the family members by releasing the children after 20 days, or simply release the entire family as a unit after 20 days. These were precisely the same narrow alternatives that were open to the Trump administration in April 2018, when Trump initially announced that the government would release the children to the custody of relatives or guardians, rather than keep them indefinitely in detention with their parents. Said Hirono in June 2018: “Mr. President, have a heart for a change. Take that goddamn pen of yours and do away with this horrendous, inhumane policy of yours that rips children from the arms of their parents.”
During a May 22, 2018 interview on MSNBC, Hirono suggested that Trump’s mindset was akin to that of a totalitarian dictator: “The difference between a democracy and a totalitarian government is the rule of law. So, you have a president, Trump, who has attacked the media. He’s gone after judges who don’t agree with him. He’s certainly going after the intelligence community, the FBI, the Department of Justice. And these are the kinds of actions taken by people like Erdogan in Turkey, Duterte in the Philippines, and, of course, Putin in Russia — all three dictators, basically. The president very much admires them. So, the rule of law, with regard to this president, is of no consequences [sic]. He does not respect the rule of law.”
In September 2018 — when a woman named Christine Blasey Ford, without evidence, was accusing Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of having sexually assaulted her 36 years earlier — Hirono said at a press conference: “I expect the men in this country and the men on this [Senate confirmation] committee … to demand an FBI investigation. But really, guess who is perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It’s the men in this country. And I just want to say to the men in this country: just shut up and step up, do the right thing for a change. Not only do women, like Dr. Ford, who bravely comes forward, need to be heard, but they need to be believed. We cannot continue the victimization and the smearing of someone like Dr. Ford.”
On October 7, 2018, CNN’s Dana Bash asked Hirono to comment on recent incidents where leftist/Democrat protesters had harassed Republican officials in restaurants and at their own homes. The senator replied: “I think that it just means that there are a lot of people who are very, very much motivated about what is going on….” When Bash, not having received a direct answer, again asked if protesters should “be going after people at restaurants,” Hirono said: “Well, this is what happens, because when you look at white supremacists and all that, this is what’s coming forth in our country, there’s a tremendous divisiveness in our country. But this is the kind of activism that occurs and people make their own decisions. If they violate the law, then they have to account for that.”
In December 2018, Hirono joined fellow Senator Kamala Harris in challenging President Trump’s nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court for Nebraska because the judge belonged to the Knights Of Columbus (KOC), the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, which the two lawmakers characterized as an “extreme” entity. The senators’ bone of contention was the fact that KOC affirms traditional Catholic teaching on issues such as marriage, sexuality, and abortion. Both senators pressured Buescher to resign from KOC. Hirono, for her part, claimed that KOC’s “extreme positions” should oblige Buescher to recuse himself from any case in which the aforementioned issues were involved.
In September 2019, Hirono reacted vocally after The New York Times printed an article about a newly published book about Brett Kavanaugh. Written by the book’s authors, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, the Times piece noted that the book – titled The Education of Brett Kavanaugh – discussed allegations in which a woman named Deborah Ramirez, who had been a Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh more than 30 years earlier, claimed that a drunken Kavanaugh had once exposed his penis to her during a campus party. The article further reported that another “former classmate,” Max Stier, claimed to have personally seen the incident in question. But the article never mentioned Stier’s deep ties to the Democratic Party – i.e., he had donated to a number of Democrat candidates and causes, and he had worked for President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, while Kavanaugh was a member of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s investigation team which looked into Clinton’s misconduct in office. Nor did the article mention that Ramirez had refused to be interviewed about the alleged incident; that all three of the friends whom she had identified as witnesses steadfastly maintained that it never occurred; and that all three friends had stated that not even Ramirez herself could recall the incident.
Despite the paucity of evidence against Kavanaugh, Hirono said in a statement: “Brett Kavanaugh should never have been confirmed to the Supreme Court. It was plain to me and many others at the time that the FBI ‘investigation’ into the serious, corroborated allegations of sexual assault by Justice Kavanaugh was a sham. New reporting from the New York Times further proves it…. The House Judiciary Committee should immediately begin an impeachment inquiry to determine whether Justice Kavanaugh lied to Congress and why the FBI wasn’t permitted to investigate all credible allegations against him.”
During a July 13, 2020 interview on MSNBC, Hirono derided President Trump’s supporters as a very large pack of racists and bigots: “We should be dealing with the racism that is in our country, to which the president speaks to because he has a base of supporters who are very anti-immigrant and white supremacists. That’s a lot of his base, and he speaks to, so the divisiveness continues.”
On August 4, 2020, Hirono had a contentious exchange with Republican Senator Ted Cruz during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble: Protecting Speech by Stopping Anarchist Violence.” The main subject of the hearing was the escalating level of anti-police rioting that the Marxist/anarchist Antifa movement had been perpetrating ever since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being physically abused by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Whereas Cruz emphasized that “the rioters …. destroy minority communities, minority businesses and minority lives across this country” and thus “must be stopped,” Hirono played a video of what she described as federal law-enforcement agents’ use of disproportionate force and violence against supposedly peaceful protesters. She further suggested that the hearing should have been titled “The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble without Being Beaten up by Unidentifiable Federal Agents,” adding: “That would address an actual problem lawful protesters are facing and the rest of us are seeing in this country.”
When Senator Cruz, who chaired the August 4 hearing, denounced Democrats for not condemning Antifa’s violence more directly, Hirono said to him: “Sometimes I don’t think you listen. So, how many times have I had to say that we all should be denouncing violent extremists of every stripe?” “Does that include Antifa?” asked Cruz, prompting Hirono to respond: “I have the time…. I hope this is the end of this hearing, Mr. Chairman, and that we don’t have to listen to any more of your rhetorical speeches. Thank you very much. I’m leaving.” As Hirono departed from the hearing before Cruz had adjourned the session, Cruz said to her: “You’re welcome to say something negative about Antifa right now.” Hirono replied as she exited the room: “I think that I’ve covered the subject quite well.”
In February 2021, Hirono joined fellow Democratic Senator Edward Markey — along with Representatives Grace Meng, Jesus Garcia, and Pramila Jayapal — in introducing the New Deal for New Americans Act, legislation that called for: (a) increasing refugee admissions to the U.S. at least 125,000 per fiscal year; (b) supporting organizations that assist immigrants in need of know-your-rights education, relief from a deportation order, or help in applying for citizenship or other legal status; (c) promoting automatic voter registration for newly naturalized individuals; (d) bolstering family reunification policies by reducing (from 21 to 18) the age at which citizens can petition for eligible family members to receive immigrant visas; and (e) prohibiting the deportation of anyone on grounds that he is deemed a public charge.
In a February 28, 2021 appearance on ABC’s This Week, Hirono blamed former President Trump’s rhetoric about the coronavirus pandemic for an increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. Said the senator:
“It’s happening because we didn’t have leadership at the top, starting from President Trump calling it the China virus and the Kung flu and all of that, which apparently it unleashed this kind of targeted hate crimes among Asian-Americans, and the increase is dramatic. Just last week in New York, a person who was just walking down the street got knifed. He is in serious condition. Soon thereafter, four people walking in New York were knifed. One died. In California, you have incidents of 90-year-old people being knocked down, attacked. That person died…. [L]eadership throughout our country should condemn in no uncertain terms, when you have Asian-Americans afraid to walk down the street for the fear of being knifed, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with.”
On March 7, 2021, Hirono told MSNBC’s The Sunday Show that if Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to block President Biden’s agenda, Democrats would dispense with the filibuster rule: “When Mitch McConnell gets his way and decides to be an obstructionist, every major bill that President Biden wants, I think there will be a growing reality and recognition that we’re going to need to do filibuster reform. And I am open to it because if we’re going to continue to require 60 votes, you can bet that Mitch McConnell is going to do everything he can to obstruct every major bill that Joe Biden wants to get done. Mitch McConnell’s goal is to retake the Senate. That is, has goals. That’s where he’s going. We Democrats should be very clear-eyed about what we need to do. So filibuster reform, yes, that will come. That’s what I believe.”
In a separate interview with CNN on March 5, 2021, Hirono said: “I definitely support filibuster reform, and part of that is ending the filibuster. It could be totally, or it could be for certain kinds of bills, but I’m definitely open to making those kinds of changes so we can get things done that helps people, as opposed to not doing anything, which is the Republicans’ posture.”
In an April 29, 2021 appearance on Comedy Central’s Daily Show, Hirono was asked by host Trevor Noah: “Previously, and correct me if I’m wrong, I feel like in the past, you were one of the Democrats who said the filibuster needed to be protected. You know, and a lot of Democrats said the filibuster needs to be protected so that the minority always has a say in which laws are being passed. Do you not worry about the inconsistency in that message or is there something that people may be missing?” The senator replied:
“Oh, you know what, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. So, I’ve learned watching Mitch McConnell over the last four years, he hardly ever gave the Democrats much chance to exercise our 60 votes — to deny him the 60 votes because he would rarely put out any substantive legislation in his busyness to get as many ideologically-oriented people onto the courts for lifetime appointments or passing the 1.5 trillion in tax cuts…. You think that well, the filibuster protects minority voices, but notice we were in the minority for four years and we basically got shafted at every turn. So, I learned from that and also that the filibuster is a vestige of the Jim Crow days. And so, we need to move on, away from this rule that’s not even anything that is in law or in the Constitution.”
During a July 12, 2022 Senate hearing on the impact of the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs decision which overturned Roe v. Wade, Hirono was asked who would know how to properly interpret the U.S. Constitution as it was written by the Framers. In her response, Hirono disparaged the very concept of originalism: “Originalism, the Justices who take that approach go all the way back to our Founding Fathers and pretend that they know what our Founding Fathers meant when they drafted the Constitution. I use the word ‘pretend’ because who the heck would know what our Founding Fathers meant? Is there any reference to AR-15 rifles in [the Second Amendment to] our Constitution? No.”
While debating Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act” in September 2022 — a bill calling for a ban on all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother — Hirono said: “When I hear my colleagues talking about how, you know, ‘it should be state rights’ or ‘government should not be telling us what to do,’ the word ‘hypocrites,’ it doesn’t even go far enough to call them out on what they’re doing. This is an outright attack on women in this countr. That is how I see it. That is how more and more women and those who support our right to make decisions about our own bodies, that is how we see it. Why? Because that’s what’s happening.” Hirono concluded her remarks by saying that Graham’s bill was “literally a call to arms in our country.”
For an overview of Hirono’s voting record on an array of key issues, click here.