Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin will resign his position on March 15 to concentrate on his run for the state’s 1st Congressional District seat.

“I am stepping down as attorney general so that I can run for Congress with the same intensity and energy that I bring to working for Hawaii each day,” Chin said in a statement Sunday.

He added, “I am grateful to Governor Ige for the incredible opportunity to serve our state alongside some of the finest attorneys and public servants in Hawaii.”

AG Doug Chin Governor David Ige during presser about recent escapee.
Attorney General Doug Chin with Gov. David Ige at a press conference in November. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Chin’s departure involves a transition period.

Until March 15, a committee of career deputy attorneys general led by the First Deputy Attorney General Russell Suzuki “will evaluate new litigation, investigations, prosecutions and settlements” previously handled by Chin, according to a press release from his campaign.

“During this transition period, the attorney general will resolve or transition existing large cases within his portfolio to ensure no matters are delayed due to his departure.”

Chin, a first time political candidate, was told last week that he should step down by the person he hopes to succeed, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

Hanabusa, who is challenging Gov. David Ige in the Democratic primary, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that Chin should resign. She expressed concern about preserving the “integrity” of the state’s top law enforcement officer while involved in a political campaign.

The congresswoman had previously told Civil Beat that the attorney general and the governor should ask for the advice of the state Senate on Chin’s status. She noted that a governor cannot fire an attorney general.

Asked if he felt pressured by Hanabusa to quit, Chin told Civil Beat on Sunday that he did not.

“I had already made a decision and talked about it with Gov. Ige even before I saw the Star-Advertiser story or even Civil Beat’s story,” he said.

Chin said he and the governor had discussions about “what was the best thing for the people of Hawaii, and to make sure we are doing the right things for the right reasons.”

He added, “So, for me, I felt I needed to balance out a lot of the important work that I have been involved with and am still trying to wrap up, versus acknowledging the fact that I am the first attorney general to run for higher office in Hawaii.”

Hanabusa Won’t Resign

Hawaii’s primary election is Aug. 11.

Hanabusa said she will not resign from Congress as part of her gubernatorial campaign, telling Civil Beat that she can handle both tasks.

That’s in contrast to Neil Abercrombie, who resigned early from Congress in 2010 to run successfully for governor. Hanabusa eventually replaced Abercrombie in Congress.

Abercrombie was not required to step down from his federal job. But his primary opponent that year, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, did have to leave his position early.

Hawaii’s resign-to-run law states, “Any elected public officer shall resign from that office before being eligible as a candidate for another public office, if the term of the office sought begins before the end of the term of the office held.”

The law does not apply to the attorney general position, which is an appointed office, not elected.

Chin faces at least three opponents in the Democratic primary: State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, state Rep. Kaniela Ing and Honolulu City Council member Ernie Martin.

Chin announced his campaign for Congress last month, in large part because of his opposition to the Trump administration’s positions on immigration and other issues.

In Sunday’s announcement, Chin said of his three years in office:

I prosecuted public corruption, got justice for victims of consumer fraud and sexual violence, fought for the civil rights of the LGBT community, and defended women’s access to reproductive healthcare. And I challenged the Trump administration on every illegal, unconstitutional action that harmed Hawaii and threatened our nation’s values.

Chin, appointed by Ige in 2015, gained a national profile in his aggressive legal opposition to the president’s proposed travel bans.

From 2010 to 2013, he served as managing director under then-Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle.

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