State Sen. Kai Kahele, who is seeking Tulsi Gabbard’s congressional seat, told VICE News that Gabbard has a “f—ing tiger on her tail, and she’s gonna be in trouble.”
“It’s a different Hawaii than what she’s used to and I’m a completely different candidate than anything she’s ever faced,” Kahele continued.
Kahele told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he thought the conversation with VICE News was off the record, though magazine says that was not the case.
Kahele also takes aim in the article at Gabbard’s religious ties to the Science of Identity Foundation led by Chris Butler, referring to the group as “this super weirded-out cult.” Gabbard’s religious uprbringing was the subject of a lengthy story published last week by New York Magazine.
Kahele announced in January that he was running for Gabbard’s congressional seat which represents rural Oahu and the neighbor islands. Gabbard is running for president and has been ensconced in a crowded field of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination. She hasn’t said whether she intends to run again for her congressional seat next year if she doesn’t win the nomination, but political analysts have said they expect she would. Gabbard has polled around 1 percent in presidential primary polls, but is among 20 candidates set to take the debate stage next week in Miami for the Democratic Party’s first primary debates, which could give her a boost.
Kahele told VICE News that Gabbard’s presidential run was the equivalent of trying to surf a 40-foot wave in Waimea Bay without dying.
Kahele is a relative newcomer to politics, but has raised substantial campaign contributions for his congressional bid and has gained the backing of three former Hawaii governors – Govs. John Waihee, Neil Abercrombie and Ben Cayetano.
He told VICE News that the campaign endorsements were a message to Gabbard: “Good luck running for president, but don’t come back to Hawaii.”
Kahele’s comments are unusual for Hawaii politics which tends to be more tame, but he told the Star-Advertiser that he didn’t intend them for publication.
“My understanding was that our phone interview was ‘off the record’ and as is my approach with everyone, our conversation was frank and candid. I regrettably used inappropriate language,” he said by email. “I am a passionate competitor facing an uphill battle for Hawaiiʻs 2nd Congressional seat. Moving forward I will continue my frank and candid conversations, but will ensure my statements show the respect due to me, my family, my opponent and the State of Hawaiʻi.
“What Hawaiʻi needs is a full time representative in Congress who will show up and whoʻs sole focus is fighting on behalf of the people of the 2nd Congressional District. That’s the message I will be bringing to the people of Hawaiʻi.”
A spokesperson for VICE News told the Star-Advertiser by email that, “At no point during his interview with VICE News did Senator Kahele state his comments were off the record.”
Gabbard did not respond to a request for comment on the article.