- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa says she decided to run for her old seat in Congress after former colleagues, including outgoing U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, asked her to run.

Hanabusa filed nomination papers with the Hawaii Office of Elections and officially announced her campaign on Thursday.

The Democrat served in the U.S. House from 2011 until 2015, and she gave up her seat to run for Senate. She lost to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

Takai recently announced he won’t seek re-election because he’s battling cancer.

“I am a legislator at heart, and legislating is something that I understand, something that I feel that I can do better than most,” Hanabusa said. “I hate to be immodest.”

Hanabusa is chairwoman of the board of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, a role she said she’ll leave if elected to Congress.

Political analysts say it will be hard for any candidate to beat Hanabusa.

“She’s got the name recognition,” said Rebecca Ward, president of political polling firm Ward Research. “Those are her constituents from before, and I don’t think those constituents harbor any ill feelings for stepping down. So I would think that it’s a pretty clear path for her.”

But her entry into the race may have disappointed Democratic congressional hopefuls who are at earlier stages in their career, Ward added. “There probably were a lot of people in town who were eying that … and I think this dashes their hopes,” she said.

Former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, a Republican, has pulled papers from the Office of Elections to run for the seat, although he’s also done so in the races for Honolulu mayor and the 20th District of the state Senate. Reached by phone, Aiona said he was still deciding which office to run for, but he declined further comment.

While in Congress, Hanabusa served on the House Armed Services and the Natural Resources committees, and she hopes to serve on those panels again. She also served on the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs.

If elected, Hanabusa said she will work on federal recognition for Native Hawaiians and protecting Hawaii’s role as a strategic military location in the Pacific.

“Hawaii’s economy is so tied to the military,” Hanabusa said, adding that the military plays an important role in disaster relief. “We are the most forward East state in the union, so we play a critical role in being able to get to places, especially for example when there’s a typhoon or hurricane or earthquake. It really is our military that is first on the line.”

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