Kahele officially announces his gubernatorial bid

(The Center Square) - U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, R-Hawaii, ended months of speculation and officially started his campaign for governor.

Kahele faces a long list of challengers in the Democratic primary, including current Lt. Gov. Josh Green and former First Lady Vicky Cayetano, according to Hawaii's Office of Elections. Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced last week he was dropping out of the race.

Gov. David Ige is term-limited and cannot run again.

Kahele launched his bid Saturday with an announcement in his hometown of Hilo. He said on his website he will run a "grassroots, publicly-funded campaign."

Green, who has served as lieutenant governor since 2018, announced his campaign in February. He has received several endorsements, including the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, according to his campaign website.

Rumors circulated for months that Kahele was running for governor. The one-term Congressman was scrutinized for not being in Washington for votes and for having a conflict of interest on some.

Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a nonprofit watchdog group, filed a complaint against Kahele alleging conflict of interest and abuse of Congress' proxy voting rules.

Kahele serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Aviation Subcommittee. He is employed as a pilot with Hawaiian Airlines and voted on four bills that affected the aviation committee, FACT said in its complaint.

He also voted by proxy more than 120 times this year, the organization alleges. He filed a letter with the House of Representatives clerk that said it was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the complaint.

Six Democrats, two Republicans and one Libertarian have qualified for Kahele's seat in Congress.

The primary election is scheduled for Aug. 13.

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