David Ige was born and raised in Pearl City, Hawaii, and is the fifth of six sons of Tokio and Tsurue Ige, both of Okinawan descent. During World War II, Tokio served in the 100th Battalion/442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. After the war, his father worked as a steelworker on construction projects while his mother worked as a nurse and dental hygienist. Tokio Ige died in 2005 at the age of 86. Tsurue, now retired, resides in Pearl City.
David Ige attended public schools in Pearl City – Pearl City Elementary School, Highlands Intermediate School, and Pearl City High School. He also participated in community sports, beginning with eight years of playing in the Pearl City Little League. At the newly built Pearl City High School, Ige excelled in many activities. In his junior year, he was elected student body vice president, and he served as senior class president the following year. His campaign for student body president stressed diversity and an end to bullying. Ige also led his varsity tennis team to a championship and was honored as the “Scholar-Athlete of the Year.” He graduated fifth in his class of more than 500 students in 1975.
Despite being accepted into M.I.T., Ige attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. While at UH, he served as student body secretary and an officer of several honor societies as well as treasurer and vice-president of his fraternity, Phi Delta Sigma.
UH is where Ige met his wife, Dawn, with whom he has three children: Lauren, Amy, and Matthew.
After college, while working for GTE Hawaiian Tel, Ige took graduate courses at UH and earned a Master of Business Administration degree in decisions sciences. In 1986, Hawaii Business Magazine named him one of the university’s Top 10 MBA students.
Prior to being elected governor of Hawaii, Ige served as program/project manager with Robert A. Ige and Associates, Inc., vice president of engineering at NetEnterprise, and project engineer/senior principal engineer at Pihana Pacific, which established the first world-class data center and carrier-neutral Internet exchange in Hawaii and the Pacific. Before that, he worked as an engineer for GTE Hawaiian Tel for more than 18 years.
Ige was originally appointed to the Hawaii House of Representatives on December 2, 1985 by Governor George Ariyoshi, after Representative Arnold Morgado resigned to run for a seat on the Honolulu City Council. He served in the Hawaii State Senate from 1995 through 2015. During his legislative career, Ige has served as the chairman of nine different committees. He focused much of his career as a legislator on information and telecommunications policy. In the Legislature, he co-authored the Hawaii Telecommunications and Information Industries Act that established the state information network and created the Hawaii Information Network Corporation. He has also been at the center of Hawaii’s efforts to diversify its economy. Ige was responsible for establishing seed capital and venture capital programs, software development initiatives, and technology transfer programs.
Ige won reelection to the Hawaii State Senate in 2012, after defeating Republican challenger and former U.S. Naval Air crewman, Army Captain, and small business executive Mike Greco. Greco was the first challenger Ige faced in a general election in over a decade.
Ige ran against incumbent Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary for the 2014 gubernatorial election. Though he was outspent in the race by the incumbent, Ige defeated Abercrombie by 66% to 31%. Ige's victory made him the first candidate to ever defeat an incumbent Governor of Hawaii in a primary election.
Ige faced Republican Duke Aiona and Independent Mufi Hannemann in the general election. He won the election by 12 percentage points.
Ige was sworn in as the eighth governor of Hawaii on December 1, 2014, with Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui, in the Hawaii State Capitol Rotunda. Ige is the second person of Japanese descent to be elected Governor of Hawaii (the first being George Ariyoshi), and the first person of Okinawan descent to be elected governor of a U.S. state.
Governor Ige's inauguration theme of "honoring the past and charting a new tomorrow" was on display throughout the ceremony, which paid tribute to his father who served in the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the U.S. Army during World War II alongside the late U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye.
In October 2015 Ige declared a state of emergency due to the escalating scale of the homelessness problem; in 2015 Hawaii had the highest rate of homeless persons per capita in the United States. In June 2017, following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Ige signed two bills that respectively committed the state to meeting regardless its greenhouse gas emission targets under the Paris Agreement and established a carbon reduction and soil health taskforce.