Hawaii state senator to announce bid for Gabbard’s House seat in 2020: report

Greg Nash

Hawaii state Senator Kai Kahele (D) is set to announce a bid for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-Hawaii) House seat in 2020, according to Hawaii’s Star Advertiser.

Sources told the newspaper that Kahele, who was appointed to succeed his late father in the state Senate in 2016, will announce his campaign Monday.

A website called Kai Kahele for Hawaii, set up by the group Friends of Kai Kahele, is promoting an announcement that same date. 

{mosads}Neither Kahele’s nor Gabbard’s offices immediately responded to requests for comment from The Hill.

Gabbard, who began her fourth term in the House this month, announced last week that she is running for president in 2020.

“There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision,” Gabbard said. “There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I’m concerned about and that I want to help solve.”

She has not yet commented on if she plans to campaign again for her seat should she fail to get the Democratic Party’s nomination. She is technically allowed to simultaneously run for both offices.

Kahele’s early announcement just weeks after the 116th Congress was inaugurated suggests that increased scrutiny around Gabbard since her presidential announcement may be showing signs of vulnerability.

She has since had to issue a lengthy apology for her past comments and stances on LGBTQ issues. She had previously worked for an anti-LGBTQ organization run by her father, and opposed the expansion of LGBTQ rights during her time in the Hawaii state legislature.

“But over the years, I formed my own opinions based on my life experience that changed my views — at a personal level in having aloha, love, for all people, and ensuring that every American, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is treated equally under the law,” she said in a video Thursday. 

Gabbard also faced intense criticism from many, including members of her own party, for meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad in January 2017, months before the Syrian government would be accused of a chemical weapons attack against its own people.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) suggested this week she may not support Gabbard’s presidential bid, saying on MSNBC that she would be “looking for someone who has a long record of supporting progressive goals.” 

Gabbard and Hirono had also feuded over a piece the representative wrote in The Hill accusing Hirono and other Democrats of having “weaponized religion for their own selfish gain” in their questioning of a judicial nominee. 

Gabbard is running in what is expected to be a crowded primary field, possibly featuring as many as 30 candidates. While she still has many admirers for several progressive policy positions, she would likely face off against other candidates with more name recognition, wider bases of support and deeper campaign structures developed over several years.

Tags Mazie Hirono Tulsi Gabbard
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