U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa today launched her campaign for governor by criticizing the incumbent for a lack of leadership and saying the state should consider establishing safe zones for homeless people.
“At the highest level of state government today, there is a deeply troubling lack of leadership and vision. There is a profound sense that we are adrift and rudderless,” Hanabusa told supporters on the lawn of the Hawaii State Capitol.
Gov. David Ige, who is seeking a second term, welcomed his fellow Democrat into the race. He said he’s proud of his record during the last three years. He said he’s made hard, sometimes unpopular decisions.
Ige defeated a sitting governor in the Democratic primary four years ago, the first such victory in Hawaii history. Now, he finds himself in the same position as his former foe, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, in defending himself against a primary challenger.
Hanabusa said Hawaii can’t wait as more and more young people leave the state for the mainland in search of better opportunities. She said the state’s record low unemployment and strong economy aren’t the metrics that people are looking at as indicators of their satisfaction. Instead, people are looking at whether their children and up-and-coming graduates have a future in the islands.
On homelessness, Hanabusa told reporters that politicians must consider solutions that may not be “politically correct,” including safe zones. She said social services could be offered at designated homeless camping areas.
Ige has opposed state-sanctioned homeless encampments, saying they’re unsafe. He has said they contradict federal housing recommendations, putting federal housing funds at risk.
His campaign spokeswoman, Glenna Wong, said legalized homeless camps could exacerbate the problem and allow people to live in camps longer than anticipated. She said Ige believes it’s more effective to focus on stable, permanent housing for the homeless.
Former governors Ben Cayetano and George Ariyoshi attended the rally to lend Hanabusa their support.
Cayetano said he’s had his battles with Hanabusa but the two “have developed a lasting respect for each other.”
“I think she’s the kind of person we need right now to occupy the fifth floor of the state Capitol,” Cayetano said. He said he considers both Ige and Hanabusa friends, but Ige’s leadership style is a “bit conservative” and “moves slowly.”
Ariyoshi endorsed Ige four years ago. But he said he’s been disappointed since. He said lawmakers have told him they have trouble getting appointments to meet with Ige. Ariyoshi said no one can get their ideas to work without help, noting he had 200 people working on his state plan when he was governor.
“The governor cannot be aloof and be up there and feel that he has all the answers and knows how to do it without communicating,” Ariyoshi said.
Wong said Ige’s campaign wouldn’t respond at this time to Cayetano and Ariyoshi’s remarks.
On the Republican side, state Rep. Andria Tupola has indicated she will run for governor.