When Hirono ran for governor in 2002, the Honolulu Advertiser placed her in the class of "unapologetically interventionist and indisputably liberal" Democrats who built Hawaii's government. She lost that race to Republican Linda Lingle, but her victory in a 2012 rematch sends Hirono from the House to the Senate.
She hasn't moved toward the center over the years. Hirono seems likely to follow in the footsteps of the state's current Senate team Daniel K. Akaka, whom she succeeds, and Daniel K. Inouye in terms of both political leanings and personal style.
During her long state-government career, she wielded power and fought battles quietly. Some observers have described her as reserved and private (not unlike Akaka), and Hirono has a reputation in Hawaii for her political discipline and organizational skill.
A three-term member of the House, she worked to steer federal resources home (Inouye, who supported her in the Democratic primary against former Rep. Ed Case, did much the same). Hirono was dedicated to Hawaii's infrastructure projects from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and she'd be a good fit on Commerce, Science and Transportation in the Senate.
Hirono will probably seek a seat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. She takes pride in her work on women's issues and early-childhood education, which is no doubt influenced by her own experiences: Hirono's mother fled Japan and an abusive husband in 1955, bringing her daughter with her; while the family worked its way out of poverty, she learned English in public schools and by reading voraciously. Hirono has advocated a stronger federal hand on elementary and pre-school curriculums.
She also strongly backs organized labor, which has returned the favor: According to Political MoneyLine analysis, unions were her most prominent class of campaign donor.
During her campaign, Hirono emphasized her vision of a "sustainable" Hawaii, and she backed it with legislative efforts in the House. Hawaii has no fossil fuels, and energy prices are high; Hirono has shown increasing interest in using the federal government to promote the development of renewable energy. Since her two terms as lieutenant governor, Hirono has tried to boost the growth of the tech sector in the state. She made several public pleas in 2011 for the reauthorization of small-business research and technology-transfer programs.
Hirono will be the first Asian woman to serve in the Senate.