At just 28, newly-elected lawmaker garners national attention for breaking barriers

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Updated: Nov. 10, 2020 at 5:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A 28-year-old first-time candidate who won a seat in the state House representing Waikiki and Ala Moana is getting national attention for breaking barriers.

Adrian Tam is an openly gay son of Asian immigrants.

That’s not unusual in Hawaii, but elsewhere it’s making news.

Tam started his run for the Legislature in February.

“When we walked into this campaign, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Tam.

The next month, the coronavirus pandemic hit Hawaii, shuttering the economy and stalling campaigns.

“I want to reform our government because this pandemic is kind of like our reset button,” Tam said.

The Kalani High School graduate beat veteran Democratic incumbent Tom Brower in the primary and then in the general won over his Republican opponent with 63% of the vote.

“This really was rather a dramatic confrontation between two candidates who really are on polar opposites of the political spectrum,” said Colin Moore, University of Hawaii Public Policy Center director and HNN political analyst.

“Adrian Tam, who is quite progressive, and Nick Ochs, who is the Republican and who’s a member of the Proud Boys, which is a neo-right organization,” Moore added.

Tam says he’s gotten messages of support from countries where being gay is illegal. “I’ve gotten a lot of messages from across the world telling me how much of an inspiration this win was,” he said.

And in a time when America is very much divided, Tam sees common ground. “I talk to Republicans and Democrats. What I find is we have a lot more in common than what divides us,” he said.

Tam is a realtor by trade and worked for state Sen. Stanley Chang.

He’s one of eight freshman in the state House. The youngest is 23.

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