HONOLULU (KHON2) — Joining us from our nation’s capital, newly elected U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda, who is getting her orientation to Washington, D.C., during a week of power shifts with more changes ahead.
KHON2: Talk about a whirlwind week. What have you been doing since arriving at the U.S. Capitol?
TOKUDA: I’ve been here since Saturday, it is in the 30’s right now, so very cold, definitely not warm and sunny Hawaii. But we’ve been off to a running start just talking about how we set up our offices, getting to know our incoming members of Congress and meeting existing members of Congress, talking about committees, figuring out how we set up our district offices. It has definitely been like drinking out of a firehose, but just exciting, inspiring, and I just can’t wait to get started and get to work.
KHON2: When will you find out about the committees that you’re on? Do you have some that you are targeting?
TOKUDA: Absolutely, just literally in the past few hours there were determinations about the majority-minority situation. When we arrived here that was still very much up in the air. And so I’m hopeful that in what will be a very tightly divided Congress, we’re going to work really hard. For issues I have focused on, I have prioritized education and labor committees, as well as the agriculture committee, two committees where we’ll have key authorizations like the farm bill, and education acts coming up in the next 12 to 24 months. I want to make sure that Hawaii is on the map, to make sure that we can get the support and help that we need in all of these areas.
KHON2: There’s a change in leadership just happening today, coming with Nancy Pelosi stepping to the side in terms of party leadership within the House, one of the most powerful women of all time in the House. How will you lend your voice to the kind of leader who comes up next for the Democratic Party?
TOKUDA: Well, can I just start by saying it was a real chicken-skin moment. It was pretty unprecedented. But they invited the incoming members to sit on the House floor in the chamber as well. She gave her address and made her remarks and it really was something to see, I think, a testament to her leadership and really looking forward to the future, acknowledging the fact that it is about building up the bench and supporting people coming up. That is honestly how we have been received all week. It’s been about how we are going to be drawn in, included in the discussions in the leading of Congress. And I think being able to witness that, what a historic moment. What a great way to start our tenure in Congress. And for myself, it really is about how can we add our voice to the national discussion when it comes to making sure that communities of color, so much like Hawaii, women leadership, all of these things, working moms, that we really are there as part of both the discussion and the solutions that we want to see out of Congress. And so we’ve been having those discussions, forming those relationships and looking forward to being a part of a whole lot of solutions. That is going to help not just Hawaii, but the rest of our country.
KHON2: And not only just the discussions within your party but as you said, it’s a very tightly divided House, very, very close in numbers. You’re going to have to work with both sides. And that sort of ties back to home, because how do you unite your own district – CD2? Where some Republicans did well in the last election they were generally in your district. You’re a progressive, how do you reach out to those completely on that other side of the aisle whom you also have to represent?
TOKUDA: Absolutely, from going out running for this particular seat, being humbled to be able to have so many conversations throughout our state communities from Hilo to Hanalei, it would really boil down to the fact that I was running to really fight for kitchen table issues. When you and I both sit down and we have dinner with our families, we talk about the future, we worry about the future. What are those things that are going to make the difference between our kids staying home and having a life here, or becoming sadly our greatest export, like what we’re seeing? And I will tell you that there are no partisan lines when it comes to caring for our families, worrying about the future, making sure that our businesses have what they need to succeed. And I think really coming around those issues, focusing on those issues and solutions that matter to both red states, blue states, purple states and everything in between. That’s got to be our approach right now. Kitchen table issues are people issues, it’s not partisan issues. The solutions that we create will benefit all. It should be about how we lift up all of our communities. and really, that’s going to be my focus, especially in this first year. I know there’s a lot of learning to do. You’ve got to approach it with a lot of humility, but at the same time, there’s urgency. We’ve got to work fast now, for the sake of all of our families and all of our communities.
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KHON2: We wish you the best in the work that you’re doing for your district from Hilo to Hanalei, as you say. Thank you so much for talking with us.
TOKUDA: Thank you, aloha.