With his absence, and a rare open House seat on the table, many in the state’s farm team view 2014 as their shot to ascend to Congress. This cycle is on track to show the most political action in decades.
“There may be a third-party candidate, but by far anyone who wants a political future in Hawaii will stay out of the primary,” one Democratic operative said.
Republicans say their most promising candidates view the gubernatorial race as the more winnable statewide contest. Viable candidates will likely pass on a run for Senate.
As a result, the power jockeying will take place in the 1st District race, an open contest thanks to Hanabusa’s Senate bid.
With only two House seats in the state, Democrats say the opening will lead to a crowded primary, similar to the state’s 2nd District primary in 2006. In that race, 10 Democrats, including seven state lawmakers, vied for the seat, with the winner receiving just 22 percent of the vote.
Honolulu City Councilmember Stanley Chang, a young Harvard-educated politician, has already announced that he is running in the 1st District.
Other potential Democratic candidates include:
•Former Rep. Ed Case, who represented the state’s 2nd District until he unsuccessfully challenged former Sen. Daniel K. Akaka in a Democratic Senate primary in 2006. Since then, he’s made two failed attempts to rejoin the congressional delegation: a 2010 special-election bid for the 1st District and last cycle’s loss to now-Sen. Mazie K. Hirono.
• K. Mark Takai, a state representative since 1994 who represents a strong military district that includes Pearl Harbor.
• State Sen. William Espero, who serves as the majority floor leader.
• Mufi Hannemann, former mayor of Honolulu, who ran in 2012 for the 2nd District. He lost to now-Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
• Honolulu City Councilmember Ikaika Anderson.
There are other Democrats who won’t run this time around, but who local operatives say could be attractive candidates in future cycles. That list includes:
• State Sen. Jill Tokuda, whom operatives described as well-connected and popular in her district, which includes a large military population.
• Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, who operatives say may run for Congress down the line.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.