My inbox overflows with emails from Doug Chin.

This week alone my Civil Beat account has received seven emails courtesy of Joshua Wisch, Chin’s special assistant. And the week isn’t over.

The emails informed me of just how great a job Chin is doing as AG:

  • Hawaii joined a coalition of 12 states and the District of Columbia in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals “to uphold a California ban on the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines for guns.”
  • Hawaii joined a coalition of 18 states in suing the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos for “refusing to enforce a federal regulation designed to protect students from predatory for-profit schools.”
  • Hawaii joined a coalition of 10 attorneys general suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “for its failure to respond to a request for information relating to the detention and deportation of immigrants.”
  • Hawaii joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief opposing the Trump administration’s “plans to ban open military service by transgender individuals.”
  • Chin applauded Judge Derrick Watson for ordering a nationwide injunction against President Donald Trump’s third travel ban.
  • A state administrative hearings officer dismissed a protest of a contract award to draft a habitat conservation plan and environmental assessment for nene geese on Kauai. The state was represented by two of Chin’s deputies.
  • Chin received the “Champion for Social Justice Award” from the Hawaii State Bar Association during its annual convention.

On Saturday and Sunday, Chin apparently rested, and so there were no emails. No amicus briefs filed, no coalitions joined.

But his Twitter account was busy all week, tweeting out the very same news as his email account as well as the occasional flattering news item (e.g., a Civil Beat editorial, “Hawaii Judge Is Right To Keep Fighting Oppressive Travel.”)

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin responds to Supreme Court temporary decision at press conference held at his offices.
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin at a press conference in June. Is he eyeing higher office? Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Meanwhile, Google “Attorney General Doug Chin” and you’ll see 1.2 million results. The top 10 include a MidWeek cover story in July 2016 (“Return of the Intern”) and his rebuke of  U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Time magazine for deriding Hawaii as “an island in the Pacific.”

I bring all this up to help explain, in part, why no one has declared their campaign for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by Colleen Hanabusa.

Sure, it’s still early, but whether or not Chin will run for Congress is a big reason why no one has officially jumped in. He is sucking all the oxygen out of the room.

Past congressional races, especially open seats like Hanabusa’s, have drawn large, compelling fields:

  • In 2006, Hanabusa, Mazie Hirono, Brian Schatz and five other well-known Democrats, two unknown Dems and two well-known Republicans ran for the 2nd Congressional seat after Ed Case left it.
  • In 2010, Hanabusa, Case and Republican Charles Djou vied for the special election contest to replace Neil Abercrombie in CD1. Eleven other unknowns crowded the ballot.
  • Tulsi Gabbard bested Mufi Hannemann, Esther Kiaaina and three other Democrats you never heard of in the CD2 primary in 2012.
  • Mark Takai defeated Donna Kim, Stanley Chang, Ikaika Anderson, Will Espero, Joey Manahan and another Dem in the 2014 primary for CD1.

Chin declined to say whether he will run for Congress next year. But he did explain why he was so gung-ho on all his AG work, and it has a lot to do with the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“I do feel that this is a very important time to assert states’ sovereignty, and by that I mean that Hawaii has long stood for many values and fought for different priorities such as diversity and inclusivity,” he said. “And so when I see what has been happening lately, it has been very troubling, as it threatens to take away so many of the values Hawaii has fought for and stood for over the many decades.”

Hmmm. Sounds like a campaign speech.

Other Possible Contenders

Kim, a state senator, and Kaniela Ing, a state representative, said last month they were thinking of running for CD1.

The names of state senators Brickwood Galuteria and Karl Rhoads are whispered here and there. Same for that of state Rep. Beth Fukumoto and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. All are Democrats.

Galuteria said he was doing his “due diligence” on possibly running, including looking at polling numbers. A decision will come by the end of the year.

But he also cautioned that it would be a major step, as he would have to leave the state Senate because his term is up next year. That is not the case for Kim and state Sen. Will Espero, who is running for lieutenant governor but may be tempted to run for Congress again.

“In this case, I have to be very thoughtful in my decision,” he said.

For his part, Djou said he is not actively campaigning for any office. But he did point out that when he ran for Congress in 2014 he did not get into the race until April of that year. When he challenged Caldwell in 2016 he did not declare until June.

So there is still a lot of time.

Shirlene Ostrov, the GOP party chairwoman, said there has been “a lot of interest” in the CD1 seat but that there would be no announcement until “we are sure we have the right candidate.”

Who knows, maybe it’s someone no one might expect.

Richard Rapoza, who has communications experience working for successful campaigns for Case, Hirono and Hanabusa, said former schools superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi would make a great candidate.

“If you survey the landscape, there are the usual suspects,” he said. “Matayoshi has never served in public office before, but I’ve known her for over 30 years. She’s smart, tough, honest, and I think she is clearly qualified for the job.”

Expect the unexpected in 2018. In the meantime, enjoy this recent tweet from Doug Chin:


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