About Colleen

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa is a proven, knowledgeable, and experienced leader who has dedicated her career to serving Hawai‘i.

Colleen was born in Honolulu and raised in Wai‘anae where her parents, Isao and June, ran a gas station.

A fourth-generation American of Japanese Ancestry, Colleen is a proud Yonsei. Colleen’s maternal great-grandparents emigrated from Japan to Hawai‘i to work on the sugar plantations. Her grandparents were born on the Wai‘anae Plantation where her Grandpa Muroda worked as a carpenter, building and maintaining the water flumes. Colleen’s paternal great-grandparents sold tofu to the workers and her Grandpa Hanabusa fished and sold his catch on the plantation.

Following Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, both of Colleen’s grandfathers were sent to internment camps; Grandpa Muroda was sent to Honouliuli and Grandpa Hanabusa to a camp on the mainland. They were targeted by the United States for their work as co-founders of the Wai‘anae Hongwanji Mission.

Listening to her grandpas’ experiences during World War II, Colleen was inspired at an early age to end discrimination and fight for equality. 

Growing up behind her parents’ gas station, Colleen learned the value of hard work and how to serve the community with respect and Aloha.

Colleen’s maternal grandmother helped to raise her while her parents worked, instilling the values of loyalty, compassion, and understanding in her. Colleen developed a keen sensitivity and understanding of the needs of Hawai‘i’s hardworking families and vowed to do all she could to support them.

She graduated from St. Andrew’s Priory in 1969 and attended the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa where she double majored and earned her Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Sociology before earning her Master’s in Sociology. She went on to receive her law degree from the William S. Richardson School of Law in 1977. Before entering public service in 1998, Colleen spent over two decades as an attorney, specializing in labor law, environmental preservation and protection, and representing communities who needed a champion to defend against the encroachment of private interests. Colleen distinguished herself as one of the top lawyers in Hawai‘i through her hard work and dedication.

In 1998, Colleen was elected to represent the 21st District in the Hawai‘i State Senate. Her legal experience, strategic thinking, and collaborative approach quickly earned the trust of her colleagues, who named Colleen to numerous important committee assignments and leadership positions.

She served as Vice President of the State Senate, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Chair of the Hawaiian Affairs Committee, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Majority Leader. In 2007, her colleagues elected Colleen to serve as President of the Hawai‘i State Senate where she became the first woman to serve as leader of either chamber of the Hawai‘i legislature. Colleen was also the first Asian-American woman to lead either chamber of a state legislature in the United States.

In 2010, Colleen was elected to represent the First Congressional District of Hawai‘i in the U.S. House of Representatives where she served two terms. While a member of the House, she served on the House Armed Services and Natural Resources Committees. In her second term, she was named the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs.

While in Washington, Colleen made it her priority to help steer more than $2 billion to Hawai‘i to help create jobs, improve our schools, preserve the environment, build infrastructure, support our military, expand care for our Veterans, and strengthen Social Security and Medicare.

In 2015, Colleen returned to practicing law and serving on the boards of Hawai‘i Gas and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART). In 2016, Colleen was named Chairwoman of the HART board where she made it her priority to return transparency and accountability to Honolulu’s rail project.

In November 2016, following the untimely loss of her colleague, Congressman Mark Takai, Colleen returned to Washington for the remainder of the 114th Congress and the 115th Congress.  Once again, Hawaii has a committed, passionate, and dedicated representative who will work hard to deliver federal resources and find solutions to meet the unique needs of Hawai‘i’s diverse communities. Colleen will make it her priority to create jobs, fight for equality, women's rights, fair and non-discriminatory immigration policies, affordable health care, protect the environment, provide for our kupuna, support our men and women in uniform, create a clean energy economy, and preserve the culture and traditions that define Hawai‘i.