HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who's trailing her Senate Democratic primary opponent U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz by 2-to-1 in fundraising, got some high-powered help Monday when she opened her campaign headquarters along Beretania Street in Chinatown.
Former U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka and former governors George Ariyoshi and Ben Cayetano joined Hanabusa to endorse her and officially kick off her campaign challenge against Schatz.
"I'm here because I support Colleen Hanabusa," Ariyoshi said to the crowd of several hundred people who gathered at the headquarters, sandwiched between lei shops across from the Chinese Cultural Plaza near Maunakea Street.
"They ask me 'How come you're supporting Colleen? She gave you such a hard time when you were governor?'" said Cayetano, prompting laughter from the audience. "Our battles engendered in me a respect."
Hanabusa, who was elected to the State Senate in 1998 and became State Senate vice president during Cayetano's second term as governor, frequently clashed with him.
Hanabusa said her campaign will benefit from the wisdom of those members of the Democratic Party establishment.
"We're going to travel through all of the state with these great gentlemen as our navigators, telling us what's the right way to go," Hanabusa told her supporters.
She said her campaign will also be helped by the legacy of the late Dan Inouye, who asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa to his U.S. Senate seat, but Abercrombie instead appointed his then-lieutenant governor Schatz to the post.
"I call it the great wind that will be there for us. And the great wind is the confidence of Senator Daniel K. Inouye," Hanabusa said.
"To some extent, she is a more traditional candidate, but in a lot of ways that could be an advantage for her," said University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Colin Moore, an expert on politics and elections.
"If Congresswoman Hanabusa can get that core group, people who grew up with Senator Inouye and respected his wishes, that could really push her over the edge, I think," Moore said.
Through a spokesman, Schatz declined an on-camera interview, since he was spending the holiday with his family and at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade. He is expected to open his Honolulu campaign headquarters next month.
Hanabusa is way behind Schatz in campaign fundraising.
Schatz has raised $3.4 million so far, more than twice as much as Hanabusa's $1.6 million and Schatz brought in $250,000 more than Hanabusa in the fourth quarter of last year.
"Yes, money is nice," Hanabusa said. "But I will tell you, you can't replace the people. The people who are willing to canvas for you, the people who are willing to go out and sign wave and call for you. And that's where we make up any kind of deficit."
Moore, the UH political science professor, said, "Although Congresswoman Hanabusa has raised less money than Senator Schatz, she has more name recognition. So he really needs that money."