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US Rep. Ed Case says Kahele's pivot to governor's race is a 'loss for the delegation'

kai kahele governor election announcement 050722
Friends of Kai Kahele/Facebook
U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele announces he will run for governor in the 2022 Democratic Primary. (May 7, 2022)

U.S. Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele announced Saturday he will run for Hawaiʻi governor in the upcoming Democratic Primary. One day later, former state Sen. Jill Tokuda formally announced she will run for his Congressional seat.

Kahele, who currently represents Hawaiʻi’s 2nd Congressional District, announced his campaign to supporters in his Big Island hometown of Hilo.

Kahele said he was concerned that other candidates could be “owned and controlled by big money” and that “wealthy donors from the mainland" want to control the state's economics.

He said he would not accept donations above $100 or take money from corporations, unions or political action committees.

Fellow U.S. Rep. Ed Case said he gives Kahele credit for deciding he wants to serve people back in Hawaiʻi.

"It is, though, for me, and I believe for the delegation, the loss of a solid and productive teammate," Case told The Conversation. "Again, we only have four of us in the United States Congress — two senators, two representatives. Frankly, you need both people firing away. It's tough to carry it as just one member."

"He worked hard to get on some very good committees and was a productive member. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It's a loss for the delegation, I think. But I understand his reasons," Case added. "I can tell you in no uncertain terms, since I'm in my eighth year in Congress, that although it is a deep honor and a deep responsibility to represent Hawaiʻi in Congress, it does come at costs, personal costs, especially for young families."

Kahele will face Lt. Gov. Josh Green and former first lady Vicky Cayetano in the Aug. 13 election. Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell dropped out from the race last week.

"I think the voters are winners on this because they do have solid choices. I mean, you know, Lt. Gov. Green, Cayetano and Congressman Kahele are all solid choices. I would be happy to work with any of them as governor," Case said.

Kahele is a Native Hawaiian who served as a pilot in the U.S. military. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaiʻi Air National Guard and also flies commercial routes for Hawaiian Airlines.

Kahele was first elected to Congress in 2020. He has come under scrutiny recently because of his absence from Washington and his use of proxy voting, which allows him to vote on measures without being in the House chambers.

Tokuda had been one of several candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Tokuda served in the state Senate from 2006 to 2018.

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