HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 2018 governor's race just got a lot more competitive.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa announced Friday that she's establishing a campaign committee to run for the seat in 2018.
Political experts have speculated for months that Hanabusa was planning to challenge Gov. David Ige in next year's election, citing her lack of federal campaign funds. Records showed she had just $220,000 on-hand in July for a Congressional re-election campaign.
Political analyst Colin Moore said Hanabusa's run is bad news for Ige.
"Colleen is a formidable challenger and I think she may be the favorite as this point," he said.
"She has tremendous name recognition. She's widely respected in the state. She has great relations with labor unions, one of the most powerful interest groups in the state, which will help her raise money quickly so I think she will be a very tough candidate to beat."
In a statement, Ige said he welcomes Hanabusa's entry into 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 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.
"I am fourth generation from Waianae. I have had the honor and privilege of serving a community who was forgotten and ignored by many," Hanabusa said, in a news release. "I know what it means to be focused and steadfast of the challenges and I know the difficulties in bringing about major changes. Throughout my career, I have fortunately gained the skill set and the experience to address the issues facing us."
Sources told Hawaii News Now in July that several powerful Democrats who were formerly aligned with the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye had been urging Hanabusa to run against Ige, saying he had failed to take a leadership role on several of Hawaii's hotbed issues.
In the hours before his December 2012 death, Sen. Inouye asked then-Governor Neil Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa to his Senate seat. Abercrombie refused, instead appointing then-Lieutenant Gov. Brian Schatz to the post.
Meantime, speculation continues on who will run on the GOP ticket.
State Rep. Bob McDermott suddenly withdrew his name from the governor's race this week, now state Rep. Andria Tupola may be in.
She wouldn't confirm it Friday but said she is confident, even in a heavily-democratic state.
"It has been on the forefront of my mind that if this is the step that's needed to provide a change for our state and there is the support there, from the community my family and various people and businesses across the state, then it's something that I need to do," Tupola said.
Political analysts say not only is there now a competitive governor's race, Hanabusa's Congressional seat will certainly attract a lot of candidates and there is another multi-candidate race for lieutenant gtstovernor.