Gay Asian-American Democrat defeats Proud Boys leader for Hawaii House seat

Adrian Tam, 28, defeats Nicholas Ochs for the House seat

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Tuesday 10 November 2020 17:59
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Adrian Tam, a 28-year-old Asian American and member of the LBGTQ community, has defeated a Proud Boys leader, a far-right extremist group, for a House seat in Hawaii’s state legislature.

“It feels really good to know that someone who is openly LGBT can win,” Me Tam told NBC Asian America. “There was a time when people like me could not win. I’m glad that I can bring that representation to the capital.”

Mr Tam was a first-time candidate for the state’s legislature and took 63 per cent of the votes, defeating Nicholas Ochs, the leader of the Hawaii chapter of the Proud Boys.

With this election win, Mr Tam will now represent District 22 of Hawaii, which covers Waikiki, Ala Moana, and Kakaako on Oahu.

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The election race, like many across the country, was a tumultuous one for Mr Tam with the coronavirus pandemic and systemic racism leading the conversations among voters.

Mr Tam’s first challenge was defeating longtime Democrat incumbent Tom Brower during the Democratic primary, which he did narrowly.

He then faced an overwhelming amount of hate on his social media platforms during the general election from people who identified as supporters of Mr Ochs.

“It’s almost to a harassment level,” Mr Tam told NBC News. The harassment reached a point where his supporters were getting drowned out by the online trolls.

But the Democratic candidate was not the only one to report harassment. Mr Ochs also said he faced it while running for the House seat. He told NBC News that supporters of Mr Tam also harassed his social accounts, and his Facebook page was taken down in September for violating the social media site’s terms. The candidate also faced accusations of making anti-LGBTQ, Black, and Jewish remarks.

The Proud Boys made national news after they were mentioned during the first 2020 presidential debate. At the time, President Donald Trump was asked to condemn far-right groups like the Proud Boys for their hateful rhetoric.

Mr Trump told them to “stand down and stand by”.

The all-male organisation, which promotes and engages in political violence, claims it condemns racism, but several members have been connected to white supremacist ideals. The Southern Poverty Law Centre has deemed the organisation a white supremacist group.

Mr Tam said he would have an open-door policy and hoped to govern for everyone in the state of Hawaii. 

“I wanted our community to come together,” he said. “I wanted to let everyone know that I’m a public servant that will work with everyone. My office door will always be open to them and their families.”

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