U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa all but declared her candidacy for governor Friday, announcing that she will file papers to form her campaign committee — Hanabusa for Governor — to challenge Gov. David Ige next year.

Hanabusa, rumored for months to be considering a run for governor, released a statement Friday saying “her candidacy will offer a choice to the voters of someone who is a fighter, leader and able to tackle difficult problems as her record shows.”

Hanabusa has represented the 1st Congressional District, which covers urban Oahu, since 2016, when she was elected to serve the remaining term of the late Rep. Mark Takai. She held the same seat in Congress from 2011 to 2015, also narrowly lost a 2014 primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

In August, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa told the Civil Beat Editorial Board that Gov. David Ige lacks a vision for Hawaii. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

“I am fourth generation from Waianae. I have had the honor and privilege of serving a community who was forgotten and ignored by many. I know what it means to be focused and steadfast of the challenges and I know the difficulties in bringing about major changes” Hanabusa said in the statement.

“Throughout my career, I have fortunately gained the skill set and the experience to address the issues facing us. Hawaii is the best place to be in our great country. I believe we need experienced leadership to continue the Hawaii that I care so deeply about and love,” she said.

Hanabusa and Ige would face off in the August Democratic primary.

Ige released a statement saying he welcomes Hanabusa’s challenge.

“I look forward to giving voters the opportunity to compare our records of achievement and visions for the future,” Ige said. “I hope to build on the solid foundation my administration has established in our first three years.”

Meanwhile, state senators Will Espero and Josh Green announced that they’ll run for lieutenant governor next year.

Green, a doctor who represents Kona and Kau on the Big Island, was first elected to the House in 2004 and has served in the Senate since 2008.

“Every day, families across our state tell me we need fresh leadership, not politics as usual,” Green said in a statement. “Hawaii families want government to work for them, to get results that make their lives better and to reflect our shared values. That’s what I believe government should do.”

Espero, whose district includes Ewa Beach, has served in the Legislature for 16 years — three years in the House and 13 in the Senate.

“My experience and success as a lawmaker will be helpful as we debate and shape our state for ourselves and future generations,” Espero said in a statement. “We need to make Hawaii affordable and make certain our residents have jobs and homes for their families. Creating a healthy, positive quality of life for our residents is a key priority.”

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