Hawaii State Rep. Bob McDermott, a Republican representing Ewa Beach on Oahu, announced Tuesday that he will be a candidate for U.S. Senate this year.

The seat is held by Democrat Brian Schatz, who is running for re-election.

McDermott, a 16-year veteran of the Hawaii House of Representatives, said in a press release that he is running because he wants to shut down the Red Hill fuel operation.

McDermott said if elected he plans to enact federal bipartisan legislation that explicitly directs the U.S. Department of Defense to close the Red Hill facility “with timelines and necessary oversight for a complete shutdown and a complete decommissioning within 12 months.”

Last week U.S. Navy officials told members of Congress that the military will comply with an order by Hawaii’s health department to drain its Red Hill fuel facility. But it is unclear whether the Navy will also pursue a legal challenge to the order, as officials have argued that the facility is essential for national security purposes.

5 may 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Rep. Bob McDermott is running for the U.S. Senate in 2022. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

“The current delegation is engaging in double talk, a kabuki theater,” the press release stated. “The congressional delegation is satisfied that the Navy complies with the state Department of Health order. This is not a permanent shutdown nor a decommissioning of the facility — it is simply a delaying tactic with a fuzzy timeline presented.”

McDermott said Schatz has been “unable or unwilling to get this done.”

Schatz, who has held the seat since 2012, said in a statement Monday that he welcomes McDermott to the campaign and is pleased that voters have “a choice.” They served together in the state House.

“I am proud of the work that we have done and look forward to sharing more about our efforts to bring federal funds home for the economy, for infrastructure, and for fighting climate change.”

Regarding Red Hill, Schatz said, “The entire Hawaii congressional delegation is unified behind the order to defuel Red Hill and we are working together to see that it is implemented. It is essential to keep partisan politics out of this public health and environmental emergency.”

McDermott is a former Honolulu Navy League executive director and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Operation Desert Storm.

“I have done more on Red Hill in the last two months than the entire delegation combined unless we start counting lip services as fighting for our state,” he said.

He continued: “Clearly, we need to send a more serious individual to the Senate and garner some bipartisan support for this effort.”

McDermott said he is also concerned about inflation, in particular gas prices, as well as “a total breakdown in immigration law, erosion of school curriculum and a government that sees itself in every aspect of your life.”

The lawmaker holds an MBA degree from Chaminade University.

Hawaii has elected only a handful of Republicans to the U.S. Congress since statehood in 1959. McDermott ran unsuccessfully for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District seat in 2002.

Hawaii’s primary is Aug. 13, and other candidates from several political parties may yet emerge.

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