As the back and forth between 2016 presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 2020 candidate Hawaii U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard played out on the national stage, it's also having an impact on the race for Gabbard's current job.

Gabbard is facing a challenge from a fellow Democrat for her current seat representing Hawaii's 2nd District in Congress.  State Senator Kai Kahele (D-Hilo) is suddenly getting a wave of attention and new donations.

Kahele says overnight, his number of Twitter followers more than doubled, and his campaign saw a record number of online donations.

 

 

It all began when Clinton went on a podcast and called Gabbard "a favorite of the Russians" and implied that she was being groomed for a third party campaign that could serve as a spoiler to take away votes from the Democrats and help President Trump win re-election.  It's an allegation Gabbard strongly denies.

"As much as Hillary Clinton would love for me to run as an independent or third party candidate I am not entertaining that I will not do that. I am a Democrat and I'm running for the nomination take back our Democratic Party," she told reporters in Iowa.

Gabbard also fired back at Clinton on Twitter, calling her "the queen of warmongers." It's an attack Kahele argues went too far.

"Frankly I think it's embarrassing. It's embarrassing for the people of Hawaii to have the representative of the 2nd Congressional District basically come unhinged," Kahele says.

Gabbard has sometimes faced criticism that her views don't always align with most other Democrats.  Kahele echoed that concern in a tweet of his own, comparing Gabbard's Twitter thread with something President Trump might say, tweeting "Did Donald Trump steal Tulsi's phone?"

"I really had to take a second look and wonder does the president have Congresswoman Gabbard's phone because this is exactly what he's been saying for last few years in regards to Secretary Clinton," he says.

While the exchange has given Gabbard more national publicity in the race for the White House, it's also given Kahele a boost from prominent national Democrats on social media.  He says he hopes the attention will force Gabbard to focus more on her current job representing Hawaii.

We reached out to Gabbard's campaign for comment, but so far have not gotten a response.

Gabbard was first elected to the seat in 2012, and has consistently been re-elected by wide margins.  The 2nd District covers the more rural and suburban portions of Oahu, as well as all 7 other islands of the state.