“Today, because we need a strong voice for a stronger Hawaii, I am announcing my candidacy for United States Senate,” she said.
She promised to continue fighting for better jobs, tourism, transportation dollars, and the state’s farmers and scientists. “Together we have fought these fights in Congress. And together you and I will continue fighting for Hawaii in the United States Senate,” she said.
Hirono is likely to face a crowded Democratic primary to replace Akaka. Former Rep. Ed Case announced his Senate candidacy last month, and others taking serious looks include Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz.
Hanabusa said Thursday that Hirono contacted her ahead of the announcement.
“I appreciate that Mazie called me beforehand to tell me the news — and I wish her well,” Hanabusa said in a statement. “I am definitely considering a Senate run, but I am still evaluating all my options. I will make my decision when I feel it’s appropriate.”
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Guy Cecil released a statement praising Hirono as "one of the most well-respected political leaders in the state," but did not indicate whether the committee would get behind her.
"At the end of the day, we are confident that a Democrat will win this race,” Cecil said.
Republicans are awaiting word from former Gov. Linda Lingle, who said recently she will announce her decision by the end of August. Lingle represents the GOP’s best chance at winning the seat in a year when Hawaiian-born President Barack Obama will be at the top of the ticket.
Hirono is serving her third term in the 2nd district, which covers all of the islands except for the Honolulu-based chunk of Oahu that is in the 1st district.
Hawaii’s 2012 Senate race will feature at least one, and possibly two, rematches from the state’s 2002 gubernatorial contest. In that race, Hirono edged out Case in the Democratic primary but lost the general election to Lingle.
A spokesman for Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said his boss will remain neutral in the Senate primary.
Correction: May 19, 2011
The article misidentified the retiring Hawaii Senator. It is Sen. Daniel Akaka.
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