HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa told Hawaii News Now Friday her U.S. Senate campaign is inactive and hasn't raised any funds this year, signs that it's highly unlikely she will mount a re-election challenge against fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.
"I don't have an active campaign and I am very committed to the clients and the issues that I have before me," said Hanabusa, who opened a law practice in Honolulu this spring and became a director for Hawaii Gas company, a paid position.
With just 13 months before the 2016 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate,Schatz reported raising about $660,000 in his campaign war chest over the last three months and has about $2 million cash on hand.
In stark contrast, Hanabusa reported her campaign has not raised any money so far this year. In its last report in April, Hanabusa's campaign listed about $34,000 cash on hand.
Asked what conclusion someone could draw from her lack of fund raising, she said, "You can just assume that if something's going to happen, it will happen, but right now, it's not happening."
"I'm not absolutely ruling out anything in 13 months. We just have to wait and see about how things move in this community," Hanabusa added. "You can never say never to anything."
Honolulu Star-Advertiser political columnist Richard Borreca said, "She is a major political force in the community, but she's right now, I would say on the bench and is not moving quickly to run for any particular office."
Hanabusa, an attorney, is representing current Honolulu Council members Ann Kobayashi and Ikaika Anderson and former Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, now a state senator, in a city Ethics Commission investigation looking into whether they accepted illegal gifts from lobbyists and failed to disclose them.
"That's not a conflict," Hanabusa said, adding that city lawyers have ruled it's not an ethical conflict for her to legally represent council members in the ethics probe while she serves as an unpaid member of Honolulu's HART board, which oversees rail transit.
"I will be a member of the HART board. But I am also a practicing attorney and I am representing my clients before the Ethics Commission, which is not HART," Hanabusa said.
Hanabusa said she sought an ethics opinion from the city Ethics Commission about whether it would be a conflict for her to serve on the HART board while representing council members as a lawyer and the commission said it could not rule about the case because the ethics board itself had a conflict in making that ruling.
Hanabusa said Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who appointed her to the HART panel, asked the city Corporation Counsel's office to opine and city lawyers in that office said there would be no conflict, because she was not representing clients before the HART board but before the ethics panel.
If Hanabusa is contemplating running for office again, Borreca she will alienate herself from rail transit supporters by serving on the rail transit board where she will attend her first meeting July 30.
"That's going to irritate roughly 48 to 50 percent of the voters, at least in Honolulu. So it's not a win-win situation to be on the HART board and say it's going to help your political career," said Borreca, who has covered politics and government in Hawaii since 1972.
Schatz's campaign records show major political supporters who work for companies such as Alexander and Baldwin as well as Matson Inc. are now donating to him, rather than Hanabusa, who they had supported in the close 2014 primary.