Chris is a different kind of leader. He's been that underdog that took on the status quo, but actually delivered big wins. I mean that's why everyone likes him.
Michael Gill, Kailua
ABOUT CHRIS LEE
Grateful to have been elected to fight for our community at the State Capitol, Chris has stood up to put the interests of local families first and help our next generation afford to live in Hawaii.
Chris successfully organized local residents to stop a proposed landfill right in our community, blocked the commercial development of preservation lands, stopped mainland corporations from exploiting local residents, got millions in assistance for small businesses and local farmers, and tens of millions for local schools, health centers, affordable housing, and even brokered a public-private partnership to build a new dog park.
Chris has worked hard to successfully bring opposing sides together, authoring and passing ground-breaking laws to lower our cost of living and create thousands of jobs in new industries like renewable energy. He passed laws making Hawaii a national leader on climate change, protecting civil rights, and building a diversified 21st century economy that leaves no one behind.
A JAPANESE/HAOLE KID IN A CHINESE FAMILY
Born in Honolulu to a Japanese mother and haole father, Chris was given up by his biological parents, but adopted by a loving local couple - Gary, whose father worked in the shipyards at Pearl Harbor, and Connie, a public school teacher.
After graduating from Iolani School Chris pursued a passion for architecture at Oregon State University. However, his path changed during an internship at the Hawaii State Capitol where he watched a few senior citizens and surfers organize their community and stop a development taking over their neighborhood.
Inspired to help out, Chris began volunteering to help local families at non-profit organizations such as Breakthroughs for Youth at Risk and later the Hawaii Meth Project. Like many of his peers struggling with Hawaii’s high cost of living, Chris worked multiple jobs at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu and Hawaiian Airlines. In 2008, a few community leaders approached Chris to run to represent our community in the Legislature. He realized this was a chance to do something about the challenges our next generation faces trying to make it in Hawaii. He chose to step up.
TAKING ON THE STATUS QUO
Chris was elected as the youngest State Representative in the Legislature, where he began fighting to change the status quo. In his first year in office he stood up to stop corruption in politics and successfully passed an amendment to prohibit state contractors from making political contributions, helping to stop pay-to-play politics. He went on to pass laws preventing voter fraud and requiring public disclosure of who really funds election advertising.
OVERCOMING THE ODDS
At just 30 years old, Chris collapsed while giving a talk at a community meeting. He had suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. Yet, over the succeeding months he overcame the odds and worked hard to make a full recovery. But the experience changed everything for Chris. He realized that time is short and we can't wait for others to solve our problems. So Chris began standing up to take on the powers that be and tackle some of our most difficult issues.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
In 2013 when local LGBT residents asked Chris for help to end discrimination against their families, he stepped up to help lead the campaign to pass marriage equality in Hawaii. In spite of receiving a death threat for his public role as a spokesperson for the campaign, he fought on to help make Hawaii the 15th state to ensure basic civil rights for LGBT families. In 2015 when residents complained about high electric bills, Chris took on the fossil fuel industry and passed a law making Hawaii the first state to require cheaper 100% renewable energy. Progress toward this goal has already lowered Oahu electric rates 20%, saving local residents hundreds of millions of dollars. When a Florida corporation proposed a $4.3 billion takeover of our local utilities that would raise our electric bills, Chris built a coalition and led the opposition, defeating the buyout to protect local residents.
Chris is a different kind of leader who doesn’t just talk about change, he actually makes it happen. Chris has consistently put the interests of people first while tackling difficult issues, taking on special interests, and challenging status quo politics in Hawaii. He has successfully worked across the aisle leading bipartisan coalitions, and passed dozens of bills to address Hawaii’s pressing challenges. He was named national “Best Policymaker” by the US Green Building Council Center for Green Schools, and has been recognized by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Barack Obama for his role making Hawaii a national leader on climate and energy policy.
Chris says fighting for our community is the greatest honor, and credits his family for teaching him about the responsibility we all have to help our neighbors. But he says it’s worth it most of all for his younger niece and our next generation who will inherit the Hawaii we leave behind.