As I launch my campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, I would like to share what brought me to this place. Our journeys always begin with our families.
My mom was 5 years-old when she was imprisoned for being who she was – a Japanese American girl, living in California. Her parents crossed the Pacific Ocean for a better life as cantaloupe farmers in the Central Valley. That’s what they were doing, when my mom, her eight siblings and my grandmother were forced into an internment camp in Poston, Arizona.
Because my grandfather was a successful farmer (referred to as the “Cantaloupe King”) the government kept him locked away in different camps in different states for those three years.
When my mom’s family was finally released, they returned back to the family farm, to their tiny two-bedroom house. My mom recalled that they had to sleep outside until the family that had been living in their home decided to leave.
When I was younger, I didn’t hear the shame and injustice woven through her stories. It wasn’t until I was 23 years old when I was subjected to discrimination for just being who I was that I finally understood.
One of my employer’s corporate clients called her at home to inform her that I was transgender and they did not want to work with me; my employer put that on me and I was constructively terminated.
I was shocked; despite my mom’s own experiences, she taught me that hard work is rewarded. I learned that the laws at the time protected employers to allow them to discriminate against me, and others like me. I woke to what social injustice was and how it impacted my ability to pay my rent, buy food and support myself. It changed the course of my life. I realized I needed to go to law school and learn about the law — then fix it.
I developed a deeper understanding of where that sense of shame comes from when we are targeted for discrimination sanctioned by the government. When we have a representative democracy, of, by, and for the people, the government’s actions are in our name. Through our silence we are complicit. So when there is injustice, we have a duty to raise our voices and be heard.
Today, corporations spend millions in Hawaii to elevate their voices at the State Capitol. I want to make sure the voices of the people are heard – their concerns and their solutions. We must reclaim our democracy and fight for what we know is pono – for the aina and those who call Hawaii home.
We have an opportunity to turn the Lieutenant Governor’s office into the People’s office.
“I worked with Kim Coco Iwamoto during her years on the Board of Education and witnessed her unwavering support of all our keiki. Kim Coco can transform the Lieutenant Governor’s office into the people’s house, with her compassion and intelligence. I am proud to be her friend and supporter.”
– Maya Soetoro-Ng, Director, the Spark Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution
“Kim Coco is not your typical politician. She is not afraid to stand up and speak up. She has that fighting spirit. I feel the presence of Jean King, Patsy Mink, Ah Quon McElrath and my mother. And that’s what we need in our next Lieutenant Governor.”
– Mari Matsuda, professor, William S. Richardson School of Law
“Kim Coco is a civil rights hero. If elected, she will transform the Office of Lieutenant Governor into an office of advocacy for people who may not have a voice. She is not about advancing a political career. She is about making a difference now.”
– Dan Foley, retired judge and prominent attorney
Housing the Homeless: Collaborative Compassion
Kim Coco is uniquely qualified to be addressing Homelessness in Hawaii, as she is the only LG candidate who has been involved with addressing homelessness on the front lines since 2001.