HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's not even official – but that hasn't stopped at least one candidate from announcing a bid for U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa's Congressional Seat if she decides to challenge appointed Senator Brian Schatz.
"Today, I announce my candidacy for Congress, in the 1st District of Hawaii," declared Honolulu Councilman Stanley Chang in front of a crowd of supporters Wednesday afternoon.
Councilman Stanley Chang is the first to officially announce his bid for Congress in what's likely to be a crowded Democratic primary for the U.S. House seat Representative Colleen Hanabusa is expected to vacate. Hawaii Pacific University Communication Department Chair and Professor John Hart says two major factors are at play that will impact the number of people who run – the late Senator Daniel Inouye's death and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard's victory.
"There's no leadership in the Democratic party to establish a pecking order as to who to run," explained Hart. "Tulsi ran for C2 [Hawai'i 2nd Congressional District] and won, which is a sign to every city-level person that 'Hey, I have a chance!' So we will see lots and lots of people in the Democratic party," Hart said.
While Congresswoman Hanabusa has yet to officially declare her intent to contest interim Senator Brian Schatz—sources say it will happen, but only after she completes her House term, so as not to trigger a special election. Hawai'i Republican party Chair David Chang says because Congress will likely be Republican-controlled for the foreseeable future, this is the perfect opportunity to elect a Hawai'i Republican to the seat to effect positive change.
"I think it's very wise for our state to have a Republican that's in the House so that the benefits that we get from having a Majority will trickle down to the state of Hawai'i," explained David Chang. "Open seats are always a good thing for Republicans – even though we're in a Democratic state because it gives us an opportunity. "
Political experts say the impact of Hanabusa's decision could set up a significant shift in the Hawai'i Democratic party.
"It's hard to believe that there will be a figure as dominant as the late Senator Inouye was, but whether or not there's a one person who's leading the party, whether it's a triumvirate, whether it's a free-for-all – that we don't know and these elections will help define that," described Hart.
Honolulu Councilman Ikaika Anderson, State Representative Mark Takai, and State Senator Will Espero are amongst the other Democrats whose names have come up for Hanabusa's seat. All three confirmed with Hawaii News Now Wednesday they've been encouraged to run and are considering the possibility.
"Waiting in the background, the person with the most experience at the Federal level – Ed Case. The more Democrats that run, the more the votes split, the more he is very viable," said Hart, before adding, "Remember in the primary, you don't need a majority, you don't need 50% plus – all you need is more votes than anyone else."
Republican Charles Djou is also expected to throw his hat in the race for Hanabusa's replacement. He held the office briefly, but also lost it twice.
"I've talked with Congressman Djou – he hasn't said yes or no yet. I think that he would be the strongest candidate. He's held the seat, people know him well, he just came off an election – did relatively well given the circumstances – and I think he could really win this seat," said David Chang.
Hawai'i Republicans say this is a chance for them to gain strength in a dominate Democratic state—especially if local lawmakers leave vying for federal positions.
"What we're seeing is we have seven – we want to pick up several more in the House if we can, maybe one or two in the Senate, and if we can get one in the four Federal races – I think that's very good for the Republican Party, because it's something to start off with ," explained David Chang. "I don't expect us to dramatically change shift the number of seats to our side in one election cycle, but I think we need to start winning several seats at a time and building up our base."
Among those who reportedly aren't interested in Hanabusa's seat – former Governor Linda Lingle and Esther Kia'aina who ran for the 2nd Congressional District in 2012.