Colleen Hanabusa has another new gig, her second in just a week’s time.
On Thursday the former U.S. representative and state Senate president was named to the board of directors for Hawaii Gas.
Just three days earlier, on Monday, Hanabusa was appointed to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board of directors by Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Both positions are prominent, given the importance of transportation and energy in the islands.
Hanabusa has also been in the news recently for her work as a labor attorney representing the Hawaii State Teachers Union, which has been challenged regarding the labor group’s internal election process.
And, in late May — the month she turned 64 — Hanabusa formed a new law practice in Honolulu that bears her name.
With all the activity, folks in certain circles around town are wondering whether Hanabusa will challenge U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, whose seat is up in 2016.
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in Civil Beat’s offices.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
It was just last August when Schatz defeated Hanabusa in the Democratic primary by a scant 1,782 votes, or less than 1 percent of the total votes cast. A third candidate, Las Vegas crooner and part-time Hawaii Island resident Brian Evans, pulled in nearly 5,000 votes in his off-the-radar campaign.
The contest, you’ll recall, required a second election for constituents in two storm-ravaged precincts in Puna on the Big Island. At the time, a Circuit Court judge in Hilo rejected Hanabusa’s request that the second primary be delayed until more power was restored and more roads were cleared in the wake of Tropical Storm Iselle.
Hanabusa decided not to challenge the election results but made it clear she was worried the public had lost confidence in the electoral process and said that many Big Isle voters felt disenfranchised.
A Special Election
The 2014 race was actually a special election to fill the remaining two years of Dan Inouye’s six-year Senate term.
Schatz, the former lieutenant governor and state House representative, was named by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to take Inouye’s seat following the senator’s death in December 2012, though Inouye had made it clear that he preferred Hanabusa to succeed him. For that reason and others — gender, age, race — the Schatz-Hanabusa matchup was one of the most closely watched races of 2014.
Hanabusa was first elected to the state Senate in 1998, representing the district on Oahu that stretches from Kalaeloa to Makua along the Waianae Coast. She served as its president from 2007 to 2010, becoming the first woman to lead either house of the Legislature.
In November 2010, after losing a special election in May of that year to Republican Charles Djou (Abercrombie had resigned from Congress to run for governor), Hanabusa was elected to represent Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She was easily re-elected two years later.
Another possible interpretation of Hanabusa’s busy schedule as of late, of course, is that she’s keeping her name in the public eye.
For his part, Schatz, 42, is running for re-election.
On June 29, state Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance committee, will headline a fundraiser for Schatz at The Plaza Club in Honolulu. It’s worth noting that, in the 2014 race, Luke along with other notable Hawaii women backed Hanabusa over Schatz.
As for the Hawaii Gas position, the company’s executives are happy to have the “high-caliber” Hanabusa on board.
“We are honored that this is Colleen’s first corporate board directorship since leaving public office, and we are excited to work with her to advance positive change for Hawaii,” James Hooke, Hawaii Gas board chairman, said in a press release.
Also appointed to the board are Colbert Matsumoto, Island Holdings chairman and president, and Catherine Ngo, Central Pacific Bank president and chief operating officer.
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