Hawaii state senator takes stab at history: eyes U.S. Congress seat

Will Espero: Son of first-generation Filipino Americans

Will Espero: Son of first-generation Filipino Americans

By Jaco Gallarde

Come January 15, 2015, the U.S. Congress may be welcoming its first member of full Filipino heritage.

That could be the case if Hawaii State Senator Will Espero wins his primary election. Espero, a long-time Hawaii Democrat who represents one of the heaviest Filipino populations in the state, recently announced that he is seriously exploring a potential campaign for the 1st Congressional District, the seat that U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa will be vacating to run against U.S. Senator Brian Schatz.

“I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from people throughout the district, urging me to run for Congress – I’m grateful for their trust of my 25 years of public service and my experience of getting the job done in the state legislature,” said Espero, who is now serving in his third term in the Hawaii State Senate. “I care deeply about the people of Hawaii – they need an experienced leader who can advocate effectively for them in Washington, and I am taking the necessary steps in exploring a possible campaign.”

Filipinos are the second largest Asian ethnic group, with approximately 3.2 million Filipinos living in the U.S., according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Despite this considerable presence nationally, the two states with the highest number of Filipinos, Hawaii and California, have not elected a Filipino American to the U.S. Congress.

Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott is the only congressman to claim Filipino lineage.

“As the product of first-generation Filipino Americans, I know what it means to work hard, sacrifice, and give back” said Espero. “Those are values that would guide me in a possible campaign reaching all the voters of the district.”

“Regardless of any decision, one thing is for sure – there is not enough Filipino-Americans running for higher office, and that needs to change,” Espero added.

Espero currently serves as the chair of the Senate Public Safety & Military Affairs Committee and Majority Whip, working closely with the U.S. military and the Department of Defense. He explained that this working relationship will allow him to continue the federal discussion on how to assist Filipino WWII veterans and reunite their families.

Espero currently represents the 10th senatorial district of the State of Hawaii. He serves as the Majority Floor Leader and as chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs. Prior to his 13 years in the legislature, he was a business entrepreneur as well as a City & County of Honolulu administrator.

Espero expects to announce his candidacy sometime this summer.

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