Story updated at noon, 6/4/2018
Former state Sen. Clayton Hee announced Monday that he is pulling out of the race for Hawaii governor.
He told reporters at a news conference that he will instead run for lieutenant governor or seek his former District 23 seat representing parts of Windward Oahu and the North Shore.
Hee said he will make a decision about which office to seek by the end of Tuesday, the deadline for candidates to file to run in the 2018 election.
“Something is wrong with government. Something is wrong with the way Hawaii is being run,” Hee said. “That’s why I got into this race. That’s why I’ll continue to be involved in this election.”
Hee faced Gov. David Ige and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the Democratic primary. A Civil Beat poll last month had Hee trailing both candidates by double digits.
Hee said Ige’s supporters reached out to him prior to his announcement Monday and asked him to stay in the governor’s race. Hee has said he’s been told his candidacy for governor steals more votes from Hanabusa than Ige, but that he was in it to win it himself.
“They asked me to stay in,” Hee said. “Obviously, they didn’t change my mind.”
In a statement release Monday morning, Hee said, “After much thought and soul searching, my closest campaign advisors and I have concluded that we cannot outspend the other two candidates for governor.”
“We believe that both David Ige and Colleen Hanabusa will spend millions of dollars in the media blitz prior to the primary election on Aug. 11,” he said.
“While we believe our message is a clarion call for a departure of the same old same old and that rail is the biggest financial blight in the history of Hawaii, we simply cannot match the huge sums of money my opponents are prepared to spend as well as the super PACs that have formed on their behalf.”
Hee said at the press conference that he has several hundred thousand dollars in his campaign coffers, enough to win the state Senate seat or LG’s race.
Hee would have to beat incumbent Sen. Gil Riviere to win back his old Senate seat, or best several Democratic candidates vying for LG, including state Sens. Jill Tokuda, Josh Green and Will Espero as well as Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and former Board of Education member Kim Coco Iwamoto.
The LG’s race is close, according to recent polls. Carvalho held a narrow lead in Civil Beat’s May poll and Green was on top in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s March poll.
Hee noted the competitiveness of the race this time around, which could make it possible for him to enter and win.
This was the second time Hee called a press conference in three days.
On Friday, upset about the placement of signs in east Oahu urging passers-by to “Stop Clayton Hee” and “Stop Domestic Violence,” the senator filed a police report, contacted the state Campaign Spending Commission and said he was considering a defamation lawsuit against the super PAC that paid for the signs — Women Against Domestic Violence Hawaii, headed by Honolulu attorney Megan Kau.
Hee was a House representative from 1982 to 1984, a state senator from 1984 to 1988, a trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs from 1990 to 2002 and a state senator for District 23 from 2004 to 2014. Hee unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2014.
“I believe I can still make a difference for all my supporters who have been with me since my days in the Legislature,” Hee said. “This Senate race wouldn’t be an election based on campaign money but on legislative experience and effectiveness.”
A message seeking comment was left with Ige’s campaign.
Hanabusa’s campaign released this statement Monday afternoon: “We are thankful for the discussion generated by the issues he raised.”
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