In an interview Saturday, the 66-year-old said she believes her dynamic political career, both in the state senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, will play in her favor to land Hawaii's chief executive spot.
"What's important to me is that for generations to come, they (constituents) will be able to experience the Hawaii I care so much about and love and that's what made me say it is time to come home," Hanabusa said.
Born and raise in Waianae, Hanabusa says her decision to challenge the incumbent democratic Gov. David Ige was driven by one question:
"How do I best serve Hawaii?" she said. "That's what pushes me."
A national poll in July found Gov. Ige among the least popular chief executives in the country with an approval rating of 48%.
Hanabusa says she wants to restore the public's confidence in the office, but she wouldn't necessarily wipe away Ige's initiatives.
"We need to look back at what did they do that worked? What did they do in the next administration that worked? Not just say we got to start all over with some new czar," said Hanabusa.
At the moment, both Hanabusa and Ige have about the same amount of campaign cash.
They both have experience in the state legislature, but Hanabusa says her five years in Congress gives her an advantage.
"I have a good understanding of what it takes to get anything through, even with a republican-controlled House of Representatives," she said. "I never shy away from explaining to people why I take a certain position. I think that's the form of leadership people are looking for."
A sitting Hawaii governor has only been ousted once in a re-election campaign.
It was Ige in 2014 who unseated then-Governor Neil Abercrombie.
Hanabusa is confident she will be next.
"I wouldn't run if I didn't believe I had the chance of doing that," said Hanabusa.
On Friday, he issued a statement welcoming her to the Governor's race.
"I look forward to giving voters the opportunity to compare our records of achievement and visions for the future," Ige said. "I hope to build on the solid foundation my administration has established in our first three years."
Hanabusa will fly back to Washington D.C. on Sunday as the fall congressional session gets underway.