Japan-born Hawaii congresswoman wins U.S. Senate seat

Kyodo

Mazie Hirono, a Japan-born U.S. congresswoman in Hawaii, won a seat in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, defeating former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, American media reported.

Hirono, 65, a first-generation Japanese-American, will be the first female U.S. senator with an Asian background, according to her electoral campaign office.

Hirono was born and spent her early childhood in Fukushima Prefecture. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1959, according to her biography at the House of Representatives.

She was taken to Hawaii when she was 7 by her mother, who was escaping an abusive marriage, according to her website. Her mother raised three children, including Mazie, by working multiple jobs, including one at a Japanese-language newspaper company.

After graduating from Georgetown University Law Center, Hirono was elected to the Hawaiian House of Representatives in 1980. She later served two terms as Hawaii lieutenant governor before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007.

In the Senate race, she campaigned by focusing on her track record, including her activities for health care reform.

Hirono will become a colleague to the other Hawaiian-elected senator, Daniel Inouye, 88.

After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami ravaged Fukushima and other Tohoku region prefectures, Hirono said the disasters helped make the public aware of the importance of U.S.-Japan ties, promising to do more to enhance bilateral relations.