U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said Friday she may mount an election challenge to Hawaii Gov. David Ige in 2018.

“I’ve always considered my political future in terms of ‘How do I best serve Hawaii?’” she said when asked if she might be a candidate for governor next year. “So, it is a consideration. I’m not telling you yes or no right now, but it is a major consideration as to whether this is the way I could best serve Hawaii.”

Hanabusa said Ige, a fellow Democrat, has not presented a vision for Hawaii, and suggested that it’s not part of his nature.

“I find that David is a very methodical person,” she said. “He is an electrical engineer by training. I think that the way he views things has always been through those lenses. I would have preferred if David was more of a visionary and had a plan for Hawaii’s future, other than specific types of reactionary situations.”

The congresswoman said that Ige had failed to take advantage of “an amazing opportunity” to propose and implement a plan for the state, given that there are no Republicans in the state Senate and only five in the House of Representatives.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, at Civil Beat’s office Friday, said Gov. David Ige lacks a vision for Hawaii. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Hawaii’s other three members of Congress are also Democrats.

“So you would think there would be the ability to start to really move forward and form Hawaii, or have a vision,” said Hanabusa. “And I think that’s the thing that I feel I’d like to see more of from him. What is his vision? What is it that he wants Hawaii to be? How does he intend to preserve Hawaii for the generations to come? What is it that he feels with education, for example?”

A spokesperson for the Ige campaign issued a statement late Friday:

Gov. Ige will not comment on undeclared candidates for governor or their allegations. There will be ample time in the future to discuss the many accomplishments of the Ige administration.

Staying In The Islands

Ige unseated Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the 2014 Democratic primary and prevailed in the general election over three other candidates.

But a recent Civil Beat Poll found that only 20 percent of registered voters surveyed want to give him a second term. His most recent filing with the state Campaign Spending Commission shows he has only $250,000 in campaign cash.

Hanabusa said her vision for Hawaii is to make it possible for future generations to be able to live and work in the islands rather than having to find opportunities on the U.S. mainland.

She said, “If I were in political office at that level, I would like for someone to come up to me and say, ‘You know, you guys did a pretty good job. We are happy and we’re satisfied that we are here. And we choose to be here, and we want to be here.’”

Gov. David Ige at the state Capitol’s executive ceremonial room in July. His re-election campaign is expected to focus on education and sustainability. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

She continued: “It’s creating that environment where people do not feel an obligation to leave Hawaii and can only come back after they have made it elsewhere. We have got to create a situation where people want to be here and can be here. If they want to leave, fine. That’s their choice. But not because they have to.”

Like Ige, Hanabusa was a state senator before advancing to higher office.

She served in Congress from 2011 until 2015 and was re-elected in 2016, following the death of Rep. Mark Takai. She also narrowly lost a 2014 primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

Hanabusa has raised little money for re-election in 2018, although her campaign did send out a contribution request Friday.

“As your congresswoman, I will always advocate for more jobs, higher wages, and a better future for the hard-working people of Hawaii,” the emailed pitch stated. “The conversations that take place across Hawaii will have a real impact on the future of our state, but I cannot do this alone. Can you chip in $10 every month throughout the rest of 2017 so that I can keep fighting to grow Hawaii’s middle class?”

An Audit For HART

Hanabusa is a former chair of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and her chief of staff in Washington, D.C., Mike Formby, is a former HART board member who served as interim executive director.

The congresswoman said Friday that HART needs a forensic audit, something she said when she ran the agency.

A major reason for an audit, she said, was that HART did not come into existence until 2011, yet the rail project, its funding and the awarding of two major contracts as well as a number of subcontracts preceded it by several years.

Her point is that the early years of the project have not been adequately scrutinized.

“It is because we haven’t had that critical look that I believe we’ve got the mess that we have,” she said. “But more importantly than that, the mess, to me, will continue unless you understand how it got there.”

As for how to pay for completion of the 20-mile, 21-station project, Hanabusa said state House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke is on “the right track” in pushing for an increase to the transient accommodations tax rather than an extension of the general excise tax.

Hanabusa observed that, besides the GET, the only other major source of revenue to come into the state on a regular basis is the TAT, also known as the hotel tax.

To extend the GET for 10 years, she said, would not be sufficient to complete the project and, because it is a regressive tax, would be “on the backs of the people in the City and County of Honolulu.”

The Hawaii Legislature is scheduled to go into special session during the last week of August to try and reach a funding agreement.

As Civil Beat reported Monday, lawmakers are considering several options, including an increase in the TAT.

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