Former governors support Gabbard challenger
Former Govs. Neil Abercrombie and John Waihee are throwing their support behind state Sen. Kai Kahele in his bid for the congressional seat occupied by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an indication that Kahele — while a relative newcomer to politics — could prove a formidable candidate in next year’s race.
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Former Govs. Neil Abercrombie and John Waihee are throwing their support behind state Sen. Kai
Kahele in his bid for the congressional seat occupied by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an indication that Kahele — while a relative newcomer to politics — could prove a formidable candidate in next year’s race.
Both are expected to play leading roles in Kahele’s campaign, which is already holding two fundraisers next month — one at the Pacific Club in Honolulu on March 14 and another in Hilo on March 28.
“I think (Kahele) would be an absolute, total, complete asset not just to
Hawaii, but the Congress of the United States,” said
Abercrombie, who has known Kahele since he was a child.
Kahele, 44, is campaigning for the seat that represents rural Oahu and the neighbor islands — one of two seats that Hawaii holds in the U.S. House of Representatives. Abercrombie held the other seat, representing urban Oahu for nearly two decades before serving as governor of Hawaii.
Gabbard, who announced in January that she is running for president, hasn’t responded to questions from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in recent weeks about whether she plans to run for re-election next year and didn’t respond to a request to comment for this story. However, she can simultaneously run in both the presidential and congressional primaries, according to Hawaii’s Office of Elections.
Front-runners in the Democratic primary for president are expected to emerge by February or March of next year. Meanwhile, candidates in
Hawaii can begin filing to run in the August 2020 primary for Congress next February, with a final deadline in June.
Both Abercrombie and Waihee said they are supportive of Gabbard’s decision to run for president and that their support for Kahele shouldn’t be taken as opposition to Gabbard. But they said it didn’t make sense politically to wait for Gabbard to make a decision on whether she is going to seek her congressional seat again, which could take a year.
“We know that she’s running for president, but we don’t know if she is going to run for her seat,” said Abercrombie. “And even if she does, I don’t think it’s realistic, let alone fair, to ask those of us who think we might be able to do well on that seat for
Hawaii to sit back and kind of be passive about it. That’s not the kind of guy (Kahele) is. He gets things done. He focuses on his goals and he moves to
“So my view is pretty simple: I’m for Kai Kahele for Congress. I think I can make a case for him and I think John Waihee is going to be able to make a case for him. And I think he is going to be able to make a case for himself that the people of Hawaii are going to respond very, very positively to.”
Gabbard’s presidential bid is viewed by many political analysts as a longshot, though both Abercrombie and Waihee said they expect her to do better than expected.
“She is a very good candidate. Her reach is much deeper than people think and irrespective of what
happens, I think that Tulsi is going to end up in a sense
being bigger than where she is now,” said Waihee.
However, a recent New Hampshire primary poll had Gabbard at the bottom of a crowded field of primary presidential contenders, who have announced they are running or are expected to, with zero percent of the vote.
Still, it’s early in the primary and political analysts have said that even if Gabbard’s presidential bid is a longshot, it could position her as a potential vice presidential candidate or for a
future Cabinet position.
“Just knowing Tulsi, you know she is a very talented person, and I don’t think that the only end of this adventure of hers is going to just be (seeking) the presidency,” said Waihee. “So that being the case, because I do hold that belief, then we should be looking at the seat and not just let it end up going by chance to somebody who at that moment happened to have the greatest name recognition, which unfortunately would happen,” said Waihee.
Waihee said it was important for Kahele, particularly because he is from the Big Island, to start campaigning and raising money early in order to run a competitive race. Both he and Abercrombie said they expect more candidates to jump into next year’s Democratic primary.
“I think he is one of the brightest stars in Hawaii politics,” said Waihee of Kahele, who as a child used to do sign-waving for him. Both Abercrombie and Waihee were close to his father, former state Sen. Gil Kahele, who died in 2016.