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Mounting speculation about a Kahele run for governor triggers ‘grand chess game’

Freshman congressman Kai Kahele isn’t talking about it, but there’s growing anticipation that he’ll run for Governor and he hasn’t denied it.
Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 5:40 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 28, 2022 at 4:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Freshman Congressman Kai Kahele isn’t talking about it, but there’s growing anticipation that he’ll run for governor ― and he hasn’t denied it.

HNN has been told the announcement could come next week.

The latest photos on Kahele’s social media pages show him proudly in Washington, D.C.

That’s a shift from what he’s been up to since January ― voting from Hawaii and making public appearances across the state.

Colin Moore, HNN political analyst and director of UH’s Public Policy Center, said the political rumor mill about Kahele’s future is working overtime. “There are so many competing rumors circulating right now, but I will say it will be difficult for him to run,” he said.

Consultant Trisha Kehau Watson volunteered on Kahele’s campaign for Congress. “Some of it is also pilau politics. We are seeing some stuff pop up which to me that indicates polling numbers show he is a viable candidate,” said Watson.

Chad Blair, Honolulu Civil Beat politics and opinion editor, said the situation has been unpredictable.

“It’s literally changing day by day,” he said.

Meanwhile, City Council Chair Tommy Waters has pulled papers for Congress.

“I am still strongly considering running should the seat be open,” said Waters, in a statement.

Watson said a Waters campaign would alleviate one concern she’s hearing.

“A lot of Hawaiians, they are concerned about Congressman Kahele going to the gubernatorial race is that you would lose the single Native Hawaiian in Congress,” Watson said.

“Tommy Waters is Hawaiian. That would sort of address that issue,” she added.

In another development, state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole now says he’s not running for Congress and will run for his state senate seat. And former State Sen. Jill Tokuda, who was running for a crowded race for lieutenant governor, has confirmed to HNN her plans to run for Kahele’s seat.

“Jill’s priority will continue to be putting the needs and aspirations of Hawaii’s families first - now at the federal level from Congress,” said Tokuda’s campaign, in a statement.

Moore called the drama a “grand chess game.”

“There are so many calls and texts going across from various political insiders,” said Moore.

Kahele isn’t responding to HNN’s questions.

“I don’t think he’s going to run for Congress again. He’s already said he doesn’t like it there,” said Blair.

The filing deadline is June 7. The primary election is August 13.

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