State Sen. Kai Kahele announces bid for Congress, challenging U.S. Rep Tulsi Gabbard
Surrounded by supporters, friends and family that included his wife and daughters, Kahele announced his candidacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the historic Mo?oheau Bandstand in downtown Hilo.
HILO, Hawaii - UPDATE Monday 11:00 a.m.:
State Senator Kai Kahele today announced he is running for the 2nd Congressional seat in the 2020 election Monday morning.
Surrounded by supporters, friends and family that included his wife and daughters, State Senator Kahele announced his candidacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the historic Mo'oheau Bandstand in downtown Hilo.
The bandstand has been the site of rallies for Hawaii's Democratic Party every election in the past 64 years.
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired generations with the simple idea that one person can make a difference, one person can change the world," Senator Kahele said. "Dr. King once asked 'Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?'"
Kahele said in his speech that Hawai?i needs teamwork, focus and dedicated leadership.
State Sen. Kai Kahele will challenge U.S. Rep Tulsi Gabbard for her seat in Congress in 2020, sources confirm to KITV4 Island News.
"You have a candidate [Kahele] who is probably politically the most impressive opponent that she's had since she ran for the first time," said Political Analyst Neal Milner. "If you're going to run against an incumbent who has been pretty popular, then the earlier you start the better, because the odds are against you."
Kahele's plans to run for Congress come about a week after Gabbard announced she is running for President. Milner believes starting the campaign early will give Kahele time to build name recognition, pull in donations and capitalize off Gabbard's "vulnerability." Gabbard has faced recent criticism and backlash for her past anti-gay comments, which she has since apologized for.
Milner added, "I think what he [Kahele] is banking on, is that there is now enough dissatisfaction and that she will be distracted by this presidential candidacy. If I were Tulsi, I would take this as a serious bid of opposition, just because a primary opponent is starting to run now."
Kahele is the Senate Majority Floor Leader and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Water and Land. He is also a Hawaiian Airlines pilot and like Gabbard, a combat veteran.
Milner explained, "He may be an indication of a kind of dissatisfaction among democratic political elites in this state that they're ready to jettison her if they get a good opponent."
KITV4 reached out to Gabbard's office for comment, but did not immediately hear back. Kahele is expected to make an official announcement Monday morning in Hilo.