State Attorney General Doug Chin announced today that he will continue to campaign for Congress while agreeing to fill out the remaining term of Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, who resigned effective Wednesday.
The attorney general is third in a statutory succession line to fill the lieutenant governor position if it becomes vacant, after it is offered to the president of the state Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives.
Senate President Ron Kouchi quickly turned down the position Monday, followed by House Speaker Scott Saiki the next day. Chin had said he would think it over with his family and make a decision by today.
“Public service is a privilege. This was not my plan, but it is the order of succession and I am answering a call to serve,” said Chin, 51, in a statement. “In 18 years, I have been a prosecutor and the managing director for the City and County of Honolulu, and Hawaii attorney general. Each opportunity has shown me how important and valuable the people of Hawaii are, and how critical it is for our leaders to find solutions and preserve Hawaii’s values.”
Chin in late December entered the race for the U.S. House seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, his first attempt at elected office. He had planned to step down in mid-March as the state’s top law enforcement officer to campaign full time after some raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest.
Chin said his short experience campaigning has solidified his desire to run for Congress.
“My family and I have been humbled by the outpouring of support since I announced my campaign for Congress,” he said. “Today, I am more motivated than ever to be Hawaii’s strong voice in Washington, D.C.”
His Democratic opponents in the congressional race to represent urban Honolulu are state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, state Rep. Kaniela Ing and Honolulu City Councilman Ernie Martin.
Campaign finance reports due this week showed Kim out-raised her opponents, attracting $172,510 in contributions for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with $82,757 raised by Ing’s campaign and $27,535 raised by Chin. Martin had not filed a report as of Thursday.
Chin, who was appointed by Gov. David Ige to be attorney general in 2015, has been one of the more high-profile members of Ige’s Cabinet as a vocal opponent of decisions by President Donald Trump’s administration on immigration and other issues.
The veteran Honolulu prosecutor established a national profile by filing a series of legal challenges to Trump’s policies. As the son of Chinese immigrants, Chin has said his legal challenges to the Trump administration prompted him to run for Congress.
Serving as second-in- command of state government will help keep Chin in the public eye as he continues to campaign. The lieutenant governor’s post has helped launch the political careers of some of Hawaii’s most successful elected officials, including former Govs. George Ariyoshi, John Waihee and Ben Cayetano, and U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz.
The vacancy surfaced Monday when Tsutsui abruptly announced that he would be resigning to relocate back to Maui and start a private-sector job with the Hawaii branch of the communications and public affairs firm Strategies 360.
The announcement set off lots of political speculation around who would take Tsutsui’s place. Tsutsui himself initially assumed the post after then-Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz was appointed to the U.S. Senate.
If Chin had passed on the job, the law next calls for the position to be offered to several state department heads.