On January 21, 2017, Sherry Campagna was in Washington D.C. with a group of 200 Hawaiʻi-based social justice advocates participating in the 2 million-person Women’s March in D.C. to support legislation and policies regarding human rights—especially women’s rights—immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, environmental protection, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion and workers’ rights, all of which have become threatened by the ascension of Donald Trump to the White House. It was the largest single-day protest in American history.
As one of the original national organizers of the Women’s March, Campagna helped to rally some 15,000 people on Oʻahu, Maui, Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi Island. This was also the largest recorded public demonstration in the history of the state, and in each county.
On Saturday, November 18, at noon in the Atherton Building of the YWCA Kokokahi on Kāneʻohe Bay Drive, Campagna will publicly announce her candidacy for Hawaiʻi’s Second Congressional District.
“I decided to run for this very important position because the people of CD2 deserve a representative who will remain a true servant to their needs in Congress,” Campagna said in a press release. “While I am not a politician, I am a proven leader, confident that I will succeed in protecting the people of CD2 and their families, growing a thriving community, and preserving the ʻāina.” According to the release, her priorities will be economic justice, job creation, prison reform, environmental stewardship, healthcare and equal rights.
She will be challenging a tough incumbent. Tulsi Gabbard has more than $2 million to spend on her campaign and is capable of raising another half a million each campaign cycle. She has a strong base of support among environmentalists and her early denouncement of the DNC and her support for campaign finance reform and for Bernie Sanders won over many progressives. There is even talk that she should run for president or vice-president in 2020. She is also a military veteran who has generally been seen as anti-war.
But Campagna has her own environmental track record. She is an environmental scientist and small business owner of an environmental planning, permitting, remediation and renewable energy company called Kamaka Green, which was responsible for the master environmental plan for the controversial military live-fire training area at Pōhakuloa on Hawaiʻi Island; the Matson molasses spill emergency response plan; and the plan for Waikōloa unexploded ordnance remediation. Campagna was born in Honolulu, but grew up around the world as “a dependent of the Department of Defense.”
In college, Campagna advocated for racial equality as a Native Hawaiian, then widened her scope to include women’s rights and class disparities. She is a commissioner with the Hawaiʻi Commission on the Status of Women.
“Sherry has long been an outspoken and effective advocate for women’s rights, struggling families, marginalized groups and global responsibility. I enthusiastically support [her] candidacy for Hawaiʻi’s Second Congressional District, as would my sister, the late iconic civil rights attorney, Flo Kennedy,” said Faye Kennedy in the press release sent by the Campagna campaign.
Campagna also founded the nonprofit Olomea, which helps foster kids who are aging out of care. She has been a foster care system reform advocate for over a decade and recently won a landmark court decision based on a class action lawsuit awarding foster families an increase in care payments, which had not been matched for inflation or the cost of living in 24 years. Without such an increase, the retention of quality foster care families for foster children in need remained unnecessarily encumbered. Through Olomea, Campagna also succeeded in legislatively increasing the cutoff age for foster children receiving care from 18 to 21.
Campagna also serves as the director of the Kinaole Foundation, a nonprofit that helps veterans start their own businesses; as director for the YWCA of Oʻahu; as fund development chair for TEDxHonolulu; and is a member of the ʻAhahui Kaʻahumanu Hawaiian Civic Club, the Kalihi Palama Hawaiian Civic Club and the Prince Kūhiō Hawaiian Club.