Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa launched her campaign officially for governor of Hawaii Monday.
At her opening rally, she talked about tackling tough issues like homelessness and government waste but also clashed with current governor David Ige over their differing leadership styles.
"At the highest level of government today, there is a deep lack of leadership and vision, a profound sense we are adrift and rudderless," Hanabusa said. "You need someone who can make a decision, and someone who is not afraid to make the call, you can't just hedge."
After working her way through the state legislature and successful runs for U.S. Representative, Hanabusa now feels her leadership style is needed in Hawaii.
"I am someone who people, whether they agree with me or not, the one thing people acknowledge is leadership qualities," Hanabusa said.
"I think she has vision, is bold and not afraid to take controversial positions, the kind of person that we need right now," Former governor Ben Cayetano said.
Cayetano, one of two former governors on hand to give their support.
Along with dozens of others, including sheet metal workers, who admit even though they have been busy under the Ige administration, they made a connection with Hanabusa.
"The current administration is a little more aloof, Gov. Ige is an engineer and it is different speaking to a pragmatic leader and Colleen has been that, in congress for us for a long time," Ben Toyama, with the sheet metal workers union said.
During her opening rally, Hanabusa talked about what is wrong with our current government.
"We cannot wait while our parks are occupied and vandalized and the response is to close them down, post armed guards and turn families away from the public places that belong to our children," she said.
Instead, she talks about a more effective government, focused on improving public education and stemming the rising outflow of residents looking for better jobs elsewhere.
"I was happy she always mentions the young people that are heading away from Hawaii. That is something I am thinking about, being in college and talked to people that have left Hawaii for college as well. I know it is something we can improve on as a state and it will help revamp the generations ahead," Calais Nobuhara, a college student said.
Hanabusa also wants to improve our infrastructure including roads, while reducing lost time and money on costly capital improvement projects.
Issues even Ige would support, but the difference between the two is Hanabusa wants to take a more immediate approach to problem solving.
For instance, Hawaii's large homeless population, which has been swept from encampment to encampment, Hanabusa would like to provide a temporary place for them to go.
"There is a need now. We need something like a safe zone where people can go and enhance with social services. Even though they may not be politically correct, you gotta look at and ask the questions how do we address the problems. That is why I am running for governor," Hanabusa said.
With Hanabusa running for governor, her seat in Congress will be vacant but she said she doesn't support any particular person to take her place in DC, instead she wants the voters to decide, just like in the election for governor.
Governor David Ige issued a statement welcoming Hanabusa to the race and he defended his leadership style and accomplishments including cooling public schools, protecting watersheds and standing up to the Trump Administration.
"The people of Hawai'i are always served by choices in leadership. I welcome Colleen's entrance into the race.
It is one thing to criticize, and it is another to get the people's business done. 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.
Our team has improved our financial standing saving the state hundreds of millions in interest payments and rekindled long-stalled infrastructure projects. 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. I am also proud of how my administration has taken on the Trump Administration when they have put Hawai'i's and the nation's values and rights in jeopardy, doing more than most other governors to fight unfair and discriminatory policies coming out of Congress and the White House.
I may not be the typical politician, but what we need today is less politics and more hard work. The historic firsts coming out of my administration and things I have done since taking office reflects this effort. That is the kind of leadership I believe Hawaii deserves."
Historically, Hawaii governors are hard to unseat, but David Ige did just that to Neil Abercrombie.
Now, Hanabusa is vying to do the same to him.
Since both are seasoned Democratic lawmakers, political analyst Neal Milner says this election could hinge on which person voters believe will be most effective at running the state, the current governor or the challenger Colleen Hanabusa.
"She sees herself and the election as one about competence and leadership. Leadership is code word for competence. Given the fact that they are not making ideological differences, it comes down to who can run the state better," Milner said.