Democrat Colleen Hanabusa will make a bid to return to the seat she once held in U.S. House of Representatives representing urban Honolulu, according to sources who have discussed the race with her.
It is unclear if Hanabusa will announce her plans at the State Democratic Convention this weekend, or if she plans to delay her announcement a bit longer. The filing deadline for candidates running for election this year is June 7, and Hanabusa has very little time to organize and launch what will need to be a major campaign.
Last week U.S. Rep. Mark Takai announced he would not seek re-election to the urban Honolulu U.S. House district, saying he needs to concentrate on his health after he recently learned that his pancreatic cancer had spread.
Takai’s announcement that he is stepping down had fueled speculation about an array of possible candidates who might seek the District 1 House seat, but Hanabusa’s entry into the race would clear the field, said Colin Moore, director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
“It totally changes the race,” said Moore. “I can’t imagine that there’s anyone who — at least among the Democrats — who could beat Colleen Hanabusa, and most of the established candidates, I doubt they would even want to try to challenge her.”
Hanabusa has a very high level of name recognition, she is well liked, and she is respected, Moore said.
“She has the experience to start a campaign, and the connections to establish the necessary campaign infrastructure quite quickly,” Moore said. “I think she would be nearly an impossible candidate to beat.”
Hanabusa, 65, held the urban Honolulu House seat from 2011 to 2015. She challenged U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in the 2014 Democratic primary in an effort to ascend to the Senate, but was defeated by a narrow margin of 1,782 votes.
She was recently selected to serve as board chairwoman for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.
She is a respected labor lawyer who was first elected to represent the Leeward Coast in the state Senate in 1998. She served as chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and as majority leader, and in 2007 became the first woman to be selected by her fellow Democrats as Senate president.
Hanabusa remained as Senate president until 2010, when Neil Abercrombie resigned from the urban Honolulu U.S. House seat to run for governor.
Hanabusa ran for that seat and lost to Republican Charles Djou in a special election in 2010 to fill out the remaining months of Abercrombie’s term, but defeated Djou in the November 2010 general election, and again defeated him in a rematch in 2012.
Hanabusa is married to John Souza, a businessman and former state sheriff.