State Sen. Clayton Hee has announced he is running as a Democrat for lieutenant governor, challenging incumbent Shan Tsutsui.
Hee made the announcement in front of Iolani Palace, flanked by his wife Lynne Waters, former Gov. Ben Cayetano, Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, Princess Abigail Kawananakoa and dozens of supporters.
"I hope that I can help and be a bridge to Hawaiian issues, whether it be with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands or the Office of Hawaiian Affairs," said Hee, who is a former OHA trustee. "These issues do not rise high in the governor's list of things to do. They will be high on the list of things for me to do."
Hee also said if he is elected, he would have a desk in his office for Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness chairman Colin Kippen.
Hee did not make an endorsement in the race for governor, where incumbent Neil Abercrombie is being challenged by state Sen. David Ige in the primary. "I'm a Democrat. And whichever Democrat emerges as the gubernatorial candidate, that's the horse that I ride."
Hee is running in the primary against incumbent Shan Tsutsui, who was appointed to the office after Brian Schatz was appointed to replace the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.
In a statement, Tsutsui said, "I am humbled by the support I've received from the people of Hawaii and I look forward to a spirited campaign that will allow us to take our message to the voters. In the meantime, there is much work to do as Lt. Governor and I will continue to work hard to meet the needs of Hawaii's people."
Hee, 61, said he had done research and polling that indicated that he could "be successful" if he ran for lieutenant governor.
"Ten years ago, I might have just done it just to do it. Ten years later, at my age, we want to be sure we know how deep the pool is before we jump in," Hee said, drawing laughter from his supporters.
Former Gov. Cayetano, who has endorsed Ige in the governor's race, said, "I believe that Senator Hee will make a complement to that ticket. But you know, this guy should be running for governor, but he's not."
Princess Abigail Kawananakoa praised Hee for his support in getting funding to renovate Iolani Palace. "I wanted to be here with him to show the Hawaiian people I am, as I say, strongly for Senator Hee. I'm so grateful but not at all surprised at the response that we are receiving from the people of Hawaii."
Hee endorsed former state Rep. Gil Riviere to replace him in the senate. Riviere switched from the Republican to the Democratic party originally to regain the house seat he lost to Richard Fale. Fale and former state Rep. Colleen Meyer are running in the GOP primary for Hee's senate seat.