On the same day the U.S. government neared a shutdown because a dysfunctional Congress cannot agree on how to fund it, a fifth candidate entered the race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.

In spite of the chaos going on in Washington, plenty of people still want to serve, even in a House of Representatives under the thumb of the GOP’s tea party faction.

Likely contenders include Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, who initially told colleagues she would not run but now says she is considering a campaign after all.

Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who has run for Congress three times, is said to still be a possible contender. Hannemann did not respond to a phone message Monday.

And Daniel Dae Kim, the Hawaii Five-0 star, is rumored to also be thinking about switching to politics, following in the footsteps of his friend Tulsi Gabbard, who holds the 2nd Congressional District.

Reached via a spokeswoman, Kim said in a statement to Civil Beat Monday, “Though I’ve always followed politics and am flattered by the suggestion, right now my focus and commitment is to Hawaii Five-0.”

Whether Kim — Daniel or Donna — jumps in or not, the race for CD1 is getting more interesting.

“You could be looking at a Wild West shootout where 20 percent might win this race,” said sate Sen. Will Espero, one of the five announced candidates. “There could be two or three others, and the more that get in the race, the lower the number of voters are going to be needed to win this.”

Flickr: ewen and donabel

Daniel Dae Kim, 2006.

State Rep. Mark Takai and Honolulu City Council members Ikaika Anderson and Stanley Chang are also running for CD1. All are Democrats, as is Kathryn Xian, who formally launched her campaign Monday.

Xian, 40, stands out from her announced opponents. All are males who are serving in either the Council or the Legislature. Xian (pronounced SHEE-on) has never held elective office and is best known for her work to stop violence against woman and children and help victims of human trafficking. She is openly gay.

“We live in a state defined by our diversity,” Xian said at a state Capitol press event. “In Hawaii, our cultural, racial, religious and, yes, even political differences oblige us to listen to one another’s perspectives and learn from one another’s experiences. Our respect for diversity is what gives me the courage to run as an openly gay woman — as well as the confidence that lawmakers will advance justice by enacting marriage equality next month.” 

Xian said she hoped her sexual orientation would not dominate perceptions of her campaign, one that stresses civil rights, raising the minimum wage, streamlining credit and loan applications for small businesses and expanding green energy usage. Here’s the link to her official website.

“I am proud of what women and the LGBT community have accomplished in their struggle toward equality, but I do not want to be seen as the female candidate or gay politician,” she said. “Instead, I want to be judged on the content of my ideas for all of Hawaii’s people.”

Asked how she could make a difference in the U.S. House, Xian said, “I think the presumption that government on that high level can’t change is the reason why our government has gotten so bad. And I believe that it is high time for people not only within the political arena but from outside the political arena that have a wealth of experience working with communities should run to change that paradigm in Washington. It’s the only way change is going to happen.”

Xian is not without government experience. She worked as director of development and communications for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, and was a special assistant to the director of economic development for the city. She is a familiar figure at the Legislature, where she has lobbied for legislation.

In her announcement, Xian sounded very much like a Hawaii politician appealing to local voters:

“Make no mistake, we are here not simply to back a candidate, but to champion a fierce belief that island values can empower progress. Times are tough and purse strings are tight. Wall Street windfalls continue to blow by our shores. Yet, the aloha spirit binds us together, turning our community’s trials into shared triumphs and collective doubt into determination for a prosperous future.”

Xian faces challenges that aren’t as problematic for the other four candidates: name recognition and experience raising money. Federal campaign fundraising figures for Espero, Takai, Anderson and Chang will be out by mid-October and looked to as evidence of support, or lack of it.

But, in an increasingly crowded field, a mere plurality of primary votes can win the race. And there still is no serious Republican candidate.

Espero thinks the field will settle soon.

“It’s still a waiting game at this stage, but I would think people would have to make an intention known before the end of year,” he said. “To wait any longer, you put yourself very far behind in terms of organization and fundraising. You could still come in, but from my perspective you would be far behind for what is needed for a strong campaign.”

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