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Hawaiʻi's newest member of Congress, Rep. Jill Tokuda, on waiting days to be sworn in

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Office of U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda
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U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, middle, her husband Kyle, and their sons Matt and Aiden after Tokuda was sworn into office on Jan. 7, 2023.

The newest member of Hawai‘i's congressional delegation said Monday that she’s ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work.

U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda said she wants to bring home support for Hawai‘i communities and ensure they not only have a voice in the nation’s capital but also receive action from lawmakers.

Tokuda said she knows she’s going to have to cross the political aisle and work with like-minded people that really want to get things done.

"I do believe that one of my strengths is the fact that I am really focused on families. I come into this as a mom and see everything through the lens of a mother that worries about all of our children, whether it's my sons and my nieces, or anyone being able to make it, you know, in the place that they call home, whether it's Hawaiʻi or any other state in the country," she told The Conversation. "That means we're gonna have to take action fast."

Tokuda was officially sworn in on Saturday, Jan. 7. She took the oath of office on her mother’s Bible after an intense week of political uncertainty.

A drama-filled process to elect California Republican Kevin McCarthy as House speaker took a historic 15 rounds of voting last week. The result also meant that elected representatives were finally sworn in as members of the 118th Congress, and the House can get to work.

"It was really surreal, I will tell you, because you have all this anticipation on Tuesday morning, and you have your family, friends, literally people have flown 6,000 miles to be there," she said. "And then four days and 15 votes later, we get sworn in."

Jill Tokuda Congress Washington DC Capitol 111322
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/AP
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FR171810 AP
FILE - Rep.-elect Jill Tokuda, D-Hawaiʻi, arrives for New Member Orientation check-in and program registration at the Hyatt Regency, in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

"Our staff was ready to go, start taking on constituent concerns. But sadly, we were actually not able to, legally not even able to look for an office in Hawaiʻi or get a cell phone, let alone being able to answer a lot of the constituent cases that were coming in through email," she said.

As her Hawai‘i staff set up operations, though they don't have a physical office yet, Tokuda said she will be reaching out to the community to focus her priorities.

"I'm just really looking forward to what we'll be able to start to roll out and then share in the weeks ahead as well. And we're adding to our team too. So please look out for that," she added.

Tokuda's official government website is tokuda.house.gov. Tokuda represents Hawaiʻi's 2nd Congressional District covering non-urban Oʻahu and the neighbor islands. She and her family live in Kāneʻohe.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Jan. 9, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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