Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa received a major endorsement Wednesday in her bid to unseat Hawaii Gov. David Ige, and it came from her congressional colleague.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said Hanabusa offers the strong leadership that Hawaii “so desperately needs.”

The announcement, made with both congresswomen on hand near the grounds of memorials to the Korean and Vietnam wars, comes at a difficult time for Ige.

Gabbard said she made up her mind to support Hanabusa before the Jan. 13 false ballistic missile alert.

Rep Colleen Hanabusa Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard endorsement presser.
U.S. Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard were all smiles at a press conference near the Capitol on Wednesday, when Gabbard endorsed Hanabusa’s candidacy for governor. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“But the failure of leadership we saw throughout that entire incident further affirmed what I know and what I trust in my call today — that we need a strong, decisive, dynamic leader here in the governor’s office to be able to best serve and lead Hawaii,” Gabbard said.

Ige has repeatedly apologized for the false alarm and said the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again have been taken.

Restoring Public Trust

Hanabusa also mentioned the false alert.

While she said she did not want to “poke” at Ige and criticize him unnecessarily, she said the incident suggested government incompetence. And that could damage Hawaii’s top industry, tourism.

“The problem is, unless we can get our people to feel, ‘OK, government can work,’ we will never be able to turn this around,” Hanabusa said, adding the focus now should be on restoring public trust and confidence.

Both Hanabusa and Gabbard are pushing for a congressional examination of the false alert.

Hanabusa also noted that this is only the second time that Gabbard, a three-term congresswoman, has made a primary endorsement.

The other time made national news, when Gabbard bucked party leadership to campaign for the presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the independent who challenged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard endorses Hanabusa for Governor.
The congresswomen said politics would not impair their work with Gov. David Ige, a fellow Democrat. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

While it’s not clear whether Gabbard’s progressive credentials will influence Hawaii voters to cast their lot with Hanabusa, it’s worth recalling that Sanders creamed Clinton in the Democratic Party’s Hawaii presidential preference poll in 2016.

Both congresswomen said politics would not influence their working relationship with Ige. Asked if she told Ige about the endorsement, Gabbard said she left a message with the governor.

“We need a strong, decisive, dynamic leader here in the governor’s office to be able to best serve and lead Hawaii.” — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

And they downplayed their own policy differences, acknowledging that they have sometimes disagreed — including on the vote this week on a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for three more weeks. Gabbard voted against it while Hanabusa voted for it.

Gabbard said Hanabusa as Hawaii governor would prove a strong leader on issues of homelessness, affordable housing, infrastructure, the economy and food security.

Ige campaign spokeswoman Glenna Wong said there was no statement from the governor on the endorsement as of 4 p.m.

Hanabusa was clearly ecstatic, calling Gabbard’s backing “an amazing endorsement” and one she did not expect.

Gabbard was also asked about a possible presidential run in 2020 — a possibility that has been mentioned in national political circles. She deflected, indicating that she is honored to continue serving the people of Hawaii and explaining that Wednesday’s announcement was solely about her “proud” support for Hanabusa.

About the Author