HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Rep. Andria Tupola has been chosen as House Minority Leader, hours after passing a resolution that ousted Rep. Beth Fukumoto from the leadership role.
The change in leadership happened after Fukumoto said she was considering switching parties, a decision she says has not yet been made official. Earlier Wednesday, Fukumoto notified her constituents of her intentions but says she will let them decide if she should switch parties.
"They elected me, at the end of the day, and that's why I'm not coming right out and saying I'm switching parties because it's up to them," Fukumoto said.
"We thank Representative Fukumoto for her service to the caucus," Tupola said in a statement. "However, we believe that it is time for the minority to take a new direction."
Tupola told Hawaii News Now that replacing Fukumoto had been under discussion for at least two years.
"This decision today, we talked about it after the election, we talked about it for the past two years. And we really are looking for a positive direction for our caucus and for the Republican party," she said.
Fukumoto had said she was under pressure from the GOP after criticizing President Donald Trump for his treatment of women and minorities. Tupola said that wasn't the case.
"Whereas our personal opinions about the president and the respect we pay to him is something that we feel like each individual does. But as the leader of the caucus, we're trying to have a representation of all the voices," said Tupola.
"She wasn't booed off the stage of the Republican convention because she had problems with Donald Trump's supposed womanizing or disrespect," said Eric Ryan of the Hawaii Republican Assembly, a conservative group not affiliated with the party. "She was booed off the stage because she's voted like a Democrat, she threatened to jump to the Democrat party previously."
Alongside Tupola, Representative Gene Ward was selected to fill Tupola's old role of Minority Floor Leader.
Fritz Rohlfing, the chair of the Republican Party in Hawaii, congratulated Tupola on the new role while encouraging Fukumoto to remain in the GOP party.
"The members of the House GOP caucus have determined who should lead them. It is entirely appropriate for them to take into account public statements of their members in making their decision as to who they want as their leaders," Rohlfing said in a statement. "Although [Fukumoto] is no longer the House GOP Leader, I believe she still can fulfill an important role as a Republican member of the State House."
As for her constituents, those we spoke to said it wouldn't make much of a difference.
"For me, no. I don't think so. It's just what she's going to do for our community," Mililani voter Puanani Fellezs said.
"I think she's been doing a pretty good job, and I've been pretty happy with her over the years," said Jerry Bona, who voted for Fukumoto in the last election. He said he votes for the person, not for the party.
Republican Cynthia Thielen was the only representative to oppose the change in leadership.
Tupola represents District 43 which include the areas of Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei and Maili.