Hanabusa files bid for Congress: ‘I am a legislator at heart’


Former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is looking to once again represent Hawaii’s First Congressional District, a seat she held from 2011-2014.

Hanabusa filed election papers Thursday morning with supporters by her side.

Current U.S. Rep. Mark Takai announced last month he would not seek re-election, choosing instead to focus on his battle with pancreatic cancer, which has spread.

“I thank all the supporters that are here for understanding that it wasn’t a matter of not deciding to do this, it was a matter of when we do this,” Hanabusa said. “I do believe after going through so many different variations that I have done through my political career as well as my legal career, it really is the fact that I am a legislator at heart, and legislating is something that I understand, something that I feel that I can do better than most.”

Over the weekend, Takai issued a statement supporting Hanabusa as his replacement. Support from Takai and other lawmakers factored heavily in her decision, she said.

“When your colleagues, like Mark and (U.S. Sen.) Mazie Hirono who just texted me this morning, when they come froward and they say ‘We think you’re the one who can best finish off the work that everyone started in Washington,’ and also the work they knew I did do for the four years that I was there, that is a very high accolade that you cannot ignore.”

Hanabusa currently serves as board chair for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, and had committed to remain in the position through June, though Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell asked her to stay on longer.

“I will stay on the HART board for as long as I can balance the two. I checked and there is no requirement for me to step off, so I intend to move all the changes that we need to make HART more transparent,” she told KHON2. “I think we’ve made the necessary inroads, not only with the Mayor’s office but also with City Council, that we are building that trust. I also believe that with the charter commission that’s reviewing now the structure of HART, that we will be able to put in to play the structure, the accountability so that the organization can move forward.”

The HART position is an unpaid position.

During her two terms in Congress, Hanabusa served on the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Natural Resources. She also served as the Ranking Member on the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs and was appointed Assistant Whip by Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer.

Hanabusa also previously served in the state Senate, becoming Hawaii’s first female Senate President and the first Asian-American woman to preside over a legislative body in the United States.

Hanabusa is a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Sociology, a Master of Arts in Sociology, and her J.D. degree from the William S. Richardson School of Law.

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