Hawaii Democrat Rep. Kahele, knocked for long Hill absences amid pandemic, announces governor bid

The first-term congressman has been hinting at run for months

Updated: May 9, 2022 - 2:16pm

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Hawaii Democrat Rep. Kaiali’i (Kai) Kahele over the weekend official announced he'll run for state governor, amid criticism that he won't come to Capitol Hill during the pandemic to vote but continues to fly as a commercial pilot. 

Hawaiians will go the polls just three months from now to pick a Democratic nominee to replace current Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, who must retire at the end of this year because of term limits.

Despite the partisan Washington attacks, Kahele, will likely be a strong contender in a race that includes Lt. Gov. Josh Green and former first lady Vicky Cayetano. 

The winner of the Democratic primary will almost certainly become the governor of Hawaii, a state that has elected but one Republican governor in the last six decades. 

In an announcement video, Kahele discussed the impact that out-of-state money is having on Hawaiian politics. Those funds, he said, are "corrupting our politics, polluting our state and putting our future at risk. I have a plan to stop the corruption and get the dirty money out of our state government."

"I’m running for governor to send a message that Hawaii is not for sale," added the Air Force veteran.

Kahele is a freshman congressman who replaced then-Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard when she ran for president.

He is pilot for Hawaiian Airlines and voted in Congress by proxy the vast majority of the time during the pandemic. The congressman, 48, has not voted in person at the Capitol since January. 

Kahele has said he flew to keep his pilot certification and that he couldn't fly commercial to Washington, D.C., because he lives in a multi-generational home.

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