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A Hawaii congressional seat has opened for the third time in just three years, and any ambitious politician has to be thinking about running for it.
One — Stanley Chang, the Honolulu City Councilman — announced his intention to run Wednesday afternoon, barely 48 hours after the news broke that U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa will seek to unseat U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in 2014. She hasn’t formally announced yet.
The race for the 1st Congressional District, or “CD1,” as political junkies call it, could be wide open.
Civil Beat handicaps the possible candidates.
First, let’s hear from the first pol out of the gate.
Chang, a “lifelong Democrat,” told roughly four dozen supporters on the corner of Restaurant Row that he would bring a “fresh vision” to the Capitol.
(Security outside the Pacific Rim Bank building had to move the crowd from the corner area, which was on private property, to the public sidewalk bordering it.)
Chang dodged reporter questions asking for his specific views on deficit spending and gun control. Instead, it was pure boilerplate.
“We’re very proud of the president from Hawaii,” he said. “And I look forward to working with him as well as everyone in Washington to fight for the future of Hawaii, and that means fresh ideas for the deficit, and that means fresh ideas for all the hot button issues that are being talked about today.”
Chang, 30, would not speculate on how much money he would need to raise for the campaign. “We’re going to need a lot of resources and we’re going to need a lot of help.”
But he did tout the “enormous difference” the council has made during his time at Honolulu Hale, which amounts to just a little over two years.
“We have brought a record $100 million per year in road maintenance improvements,” he said. “We have brought comprehensive homelessness discussions to the table. We have supported the preservation of our magnificent shorelines, our wetlands and our ridges. And we have repeatedly encouraged more efficient visas to help sustain and expand our hospitality industry on which our entire economy depends.”
Let the race begin!
Now, let’s consider the district Chang wants to represent.
CD1 is basically urban Oahu — greater Honolulu, if you will. Folks living on the neighbor islands can’t vote in the election, so it seems unlikely that someone from Maui, Kauai or the Big Island will run.
But CD1 is fair game for anyone living on Oahu, including in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Waianae, the North Shore and the Windward Side. There’s no law preventing a CD2 resident from running in CD1, or vice versa, and it’s been known to happen.
Hawaii 1st Congressional District.
Youth probably helps, too (think of Tulsi Gabbard), but it’s not necessarily decisive. Ability to raise money and name recognition are critical, however.
(Remember: Money already raised for state and county races cannot be used for federal races.)
So, who else besides Chang might run?
There are so many possibilities that Civil Beat didn’t have time to call everyone. Still, we’ll make some educated guesses, based on conversations with those in the know, observations, past history and reasonable speculation.
(Technically, Case lives in the 2nd District and formerly held the seat; but he’s also lived in the first and has run for that seat, too.)
Besides Chang, the only other name from the City Council being bandied about at this point is Ikaika Anderson. Mayor Kirk Caldwell has been interested in Congress, but it seems like he’d want to hang on to his current gig. (See: Hannemann, Mufi; and Fasi, Frank.)
There are perhaps a dozen people in the Legislature who could be contenders, and we will list the most obvious ones that come to mind:
Councilman Ron Menor, a former legislator, also ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Same goes for Nestor Garcia. But then, Hanabusa lost her first three tries for Congress but kept at it until the fourth run was a charm.
In the end, probably only a handful of these folks will enter the CD1 contest. There is always room for a dark horse candidate, too: Peter Carlisle, perhaps?
One other factor: It’s not clear whether Hanabusa will resign to run, as Neil Abercrombie did when he left the U.S. House to run for governor.
Hanabusa is not required to step down early, though, and Hirono didn’t when she ran for Senate. Hanabusa and Democrats would no doubt want to spare the party the risk of losing in a winner-take-all special election like the one that sent Djou to D.C. for seven months or so.