Arguing that Hawaii cannot afford to wait another four years for strong leadership, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa formally launched her campaign for governor Monday morning on the green lawn of the Capitol.

“There is no indication who is in charge,” she said, using the words “inattention,” “indecision” and “inaction” to describe Gov. David Ige, a fellow Democrat.

Hanabusa described the ship of state as “adrift” and “rudderless.” Because of Ige’s “deeply troubling” lack of leadership and vision, she said, Hawaii’s residents have lost hope.

She said the challenges to the state are many: education, infrastructure, inefficiency, poor management, wasted tax dollars, lack of accountability, homelessness, affordable housing, senior care and good jobs.

“I am running for governor because I believe that the people of Hawaii deserve better,” she said to a group of supporters that included two former governors, legislative and labor leaders. “It is time to step up, take action and move ahead.”

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa was joined at her campaign announcement by former governors Ben Cayetano, left, and George Ariyoshi, along with state Sen. Michelle Kidani, right. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Behind her, five floors up, it wasn’t clear whether anyone in the Ige administration was watching. But his re-election campaign issued a response even as Hanabusa was visiting with supporters and media representatives.

“It is one thing to criticize, and it is another to get the people’s business done,” Ige said in a statement. “I am proud of our record during the last three years. We have made hard decisions, sometimes unpopular decisions, because it was the right thing to do and in the best interests of the people of this state.”

Political Journey

Hanabusa identified several problems that have developed on Ige’s watch, including embarrassing news reports of the difficulties in modernizing the state’s tax collection system.

But Ige defended what he said was the “saving of hundreds of millions in interest payments” that have rekindled long-stalled infrastructure projects.”

He added, “I kept my promise to cool schools, protected over 40,000 acres of watershed forests on four islands, and ended favoritism and pay-to-play cronyism in state government, opening up more contracts to our local small businesses.”

The congresswoman made her announcement with the fifth floor offices of the governor in the background. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Hanabusa, however, blamed Ige for leading with only a limited circle of advisors. When it comes to education, she condemned the ”micromanagement of a small clique of advisors” that has impeded progress.

When it comes to addressing homelessness, Hanabusa said the state needs to do much more than serve as a “passive coordinator.”

Ige’s retort: “I may not be the typical politician, but what we need today is less politics and more hard work.”

Meeting with reporters after her announcement, Hanabusa again defended her decision to leave Congress as part of a political journey that has naturally led her to run for governor.

Hanabusa also said her campaign would not impact her ability to serve the people of the 1st Congressional District.

Governor David Ige presser. 3 may 2017
Gov. David Ige responded to Hanabusa’s criticism by calling for “less politics and more hard work.” Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Reminded that the 115th Congress was at that very moment convening its second session while Hanabusa was 5,000 miles away, the congresswoman said she “understands Congress” and would not miss any important votes in Washington.

Hanabusa said she would not endorse a candidate to replace her. They include Attorney General Doug Chin, who announced Sunday that he will resign in March to focus on his own campaign, and three fellow Democrats — state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, state Rep. Kaniela Ing and Honolulu City Councilman Ernie Martin .

State Rep. Andria Tupola and former lawmaker John Carroll are seeking the Republican nomination for governor. The primary is Aug. 11.

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