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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Gabbard opts to run for state Senate

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Former Honolulu City Councilman Mike Gabbard announced yesterday he will run in the Republican primary for Leeward state Senate District 19, setting up a potential contest against veteran state Sen. Brian Kanno in what could be one of the most watched Senate races this year.

Gabbard, with his wife, Carol, and daughter, Tulsi, by his side at the state Capitol, said he considered a campaign for U.S. Congress for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawai'i, but chose the state Senate after speaking with family and supporters.

He held petitions that he said were signed by more than 2,500 people from the district who wanted him to run for Senate.

"The people in Senate District 19, basically what they've expressed to me is the need for new leadership," Gabbard said.

The district covers Kapolei, Makakilo and Waikele. Gabbard said quality-of-life issues on the growing Leeward side, particularly transportation, would likely be the most important to voters during the campaign.

Kanno, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, has represented the district since 1992. He has pulled papers to run for re-election but has not formally announced his plans. He could not be reached yesterday.

Gabbard represented the Leeward side on the City Council for two years and is known as an energetic campaigner. He has also developed a base among religious conservatives for his opposition to gay marriage.

Kanno has been one of the strongest advocates for organized labor at the Legislature and is supported by unions that are the leading grass-roots force within the Democratic Party of Hawai'i.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the Senate 20 to 5 and are expected to keep their majority after elections this year. But several races could be competitive. Kanno was considered vulnerable after he narrowly won re-election in 2000 but he rebounded with a strong showing in 2002.

Some Republicans think he might face some fallout from voters over his support last year for a Norwegian Cruise Line worker fired for sexual harassment. The Hawai'i State Ethics Commission has been looking into Kanno's activities related to Norwegian.

Gabbard, who lost a congressional bid to Case in 2004, said he seriously thought about another congressional campaign but was encouraged by the support he received from people regarding the Senate.

State Sen. Bob Hogue and Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle have expressed interest in the Republican primary in Case's 2nd Congressional District. If Hogue were to run, he would have to give up his Windward seat in the Senate since he is up for re-election this year, creating an open seat that would likely be heavily targeted by both political parties.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.