HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Less than a month after officially announcing her gubernatorial run, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa has snagged the support of her colleague in Congress, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
Gabbard announced her endorsement Wednesday at the Korean War Memorial on state Capitol grounds in Honolulu, saying she believes Hanabusa is the right leader for Hawaii.
"Colleen's experience and proven record of leadership have prepared her to be the effective governor that Hawaii so desperately needs," Gabbard said.
"I know and respect both David Ige and Colleen Hanabusa. Both are good people. Both have served the people of Hawaii throughout their lives. But we live in a time with unique challenges. And what has become abundantly clear, now more than ever, is that Hawaii needs a strong, dynamic leader at the helm of our state."
Hanabusa was all smiles during the announcement which she said was a surprise to even her.
"One that I can honestly tell you I did not expect because Tulsi could have been politically correct, but she felt this was so important to Hawaii, she was not going to stand silent," said Hanabusa.
Political analyst Colin Moore said Gabbard's endorsement is significant — and signals big trouble for Gov. David Ige's re-election campaign.
Ige is facing mounting criticism for how he's handled several recent crises, including the false missile alert on Jan. 13. Gabbard also said Hawaii needs a governor who can tackle everything from homelessness to food insecurity in the islands.
Moore said Gabbard has lots of support on the Neighbor Islands and young voters, and could woo those who might not have otherwise backed Hanabusa.
"This is tremendous for Colleen Hanabusa's campaign," Moore told Hawaii News Now.
Even before Gabbard's announcement, analysts said Hanabusa would pose a huge challenge to Ige.
Hanabusa was elected to serve Hawaii's 1st Congressional District in 2016, when she won a special election to fill the remainder of the late Rep. Mark Takai's term. She previously served in Congress from 2011 to 2015.
Ige, meanwhile, said he welcomes the chance to point to his record and convince voters he deserves a second term.
"This campaign is going to be about leadership and about getting things done and I look forward to being able to tell all the people of Hawaii about both of those issues," the governor said Wednesday. "We are looking to take our story all across the state. We have supporters on each island that we will bring together and we're excited. I'm excited about the campaign."
Meanwhile, several Hawaii leaders have announced runs for Hanabusa's Congressional seat, including state Attorney General Doug Chin. Hanabusa said she is endorsing no one in that race.
This story will be updated.