Mike Gabbard has represented District 19 in West Oahu in the Hawaii Senate since 2006. Due to the reapportionment of state districts, Gabbard sought re-election in 2012 in District 20 against Republican contender Dean Capelouto. Gabbard beat Capelouto with 69 percent of the vote in the general election. His daughter, Tulsi Gabbard, was elected to represent Hawaii Second Congressional District in the same election.
Gabbard is best known for his socially conservative views promoted through a political and media campaign against gay marriage in the 1990s that culminated in the first state constitutional amendment targeting same-sex couples. The 1998 amendment gives the Hawaii Legislature the power to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. Despite this, Hawaii legislators voted in 2011 to legalize civil unions for all people.