Democratic candidate Adrian Tam won the race for Hawaii’s District 22, becoming the only openly out LGBTQ elected official in the state legislature, political action committee Victory Fund reports.
In doing so, Tam defeated Republican Nick Ochs, who leads the Hawaii chapter of the Proud Boys, a far-right, neo-fascist and anti-LGBTQ paramilitary group. Tam garnered over 63% of the vote while Ochs took less than 30%, according to KITV.
“I had a lot of constituents reach out to let me know that they voted for me, and that they’re really concerned that this seat could possibly go into the hands of someone who doesn’t represent our values in Hawaii,” Tam told KITV, “but tonight the voters have spoken loudly and clearly and rejected that kind of hatred.”
Tam also defeated Asian American longtime Democratic incumbent Tom Brower in August.
Speaking about going against Ochs, Tam told The Daily Beast he was worried for the safety of his supporters.
“Fortunately, nothing bad happened,” Tam told The Daily Beast. “We were met with happiness and joy by people.”
Throughout the election cycle, Tam said his campaign was thrown “insults and attacks” from Proud Boy supporters, but was glad his team “stayed on message,” and that these messages went through.
The first-time candidate and Hawaii native is a child of parents who immigrated from Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to his website. After graduating from Penn State in 2015 with a degree in history, Tam worked in his family’s business and real estate.
Furthermore, Tam has worked in multiple legislative assistant roles, including in Hawaii state senator Stanley Chang’s office. He then worked in political organizations, including Medical Cannabis Outstanding Issues Working Group in the Edibles Permitted Interaction Subcommittee, Young Progressives Demanding Action and more.
The state representative-elect will serve Waikiki, Ala Moana, and Kakaako on Oahu in the Hawaii House of Representatives.
Tam told KITV his priorities for office are COVID-19 pandemic relief, homelessness, public safety and the economy.
So, what’s next?
“Now the hard work begins today,” he told The Daily Beast.
Annise Parker, president of Victory Fund, said Tam’s victory is a part of a “rainbow wave” of queer people of color who are paving the way for a more representative government.
There are 698 openly LGBTQ elected officials in the U.S., according a 2019 annual report by Victory Fund. This represents 0.13% of elected officials overall, less than tenth of Americans who identify as LGBTQ.
“Hawaiians overwhelmingly rejected the politics of hate and finally restored LGBTQ representation to its state legislature,” Parker stated. “When there are no LGBTQ elected officials in an entire state, it has consequences, both in policy and how young LGBTQ people view themselves. Adrian will ensure LGBTQ people are considered and prioritized in the state capitol and will inspire more LGBTQ people to run and serve.”
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