Adrian Tam has made history as the only openly LGBTQ representative in Hawaii’s Legislature after the 28-year-old gay Asian American son of immigrants, defeated a leader of the Hawaii chapter of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group.
Tam said he was not worried for himself while out on the campaign trail in Hawaii, instead, he was concerned for the safety of his volunteers and supporters, wearing shirts and face masks bearing his name, because his opponent was Nick Ochs, the leader of a Hawaii chapter of the far-right paramilitary group the Proud Boys.
“Fortunately, nothing bad happened,” Tam told The Daily Beast. “We were met with happiness and joy by people.”
Tam, a first-time candidate, took 63 percent of the vote against Ochs, who was endorsed by Roger Stone, in his bid to represent District 22—covering Waikiki, Ala Moana, and Kakaako on Oahu—in the Hawaii House of Representatives.
“It feels really good to know that someone who is openly LGBT can win,” 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.”
Tam described the overwhelming amount of hate he received from Ochs and his supporters in the general election.
“It’s almost to a harassment level,” Tam said, noting that Ochs’ supporters bombarded his campaign’s social media to the point where the messages from his own voters were drowned out.
“Ochs told NBC News he also faced harassing messages from Tam’s supporters and that he was disappointed the two didn’t get a chance to debate. He said that he is not racist. Ochs’ campaign page was removed by Facebook in September for posts that violated the platform’s terms of service and community standards, local station KITV reported. He has been criticized in the past for offensive posts toward Black, Jewish and LGBT communities. Facebook did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment. Tam said part of his job now is to serve even those who directed hate toward him and his allies,” NBC News reports.
“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.”
Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a political action committee that supports LGBTQ people running for office, said that when there are no LGBTQ elected officials in a state, “it has consequences, both in policy and how young LGBTQ people view themselves.”
“Adrian will ensure LGBTQ people are considered and prioritized in the state capitol and will inspire more LGBTQ people to run and serve,” Parker said in a statement.
Tam reflected on the record number of LGBTQ and people of color elected to local and national government across the U.S.
“I’m glad that our Congress is slowly coming together and starting to look like the population of America,” he said.
We topped the proud boys in this election. Now we must get our message out there and change hearts and minds so more people don’t join them. https://t.co/yMEZIh7n5R
— Adrian Tam (@adrianktam) November 7, 2020