Kahele wins Hawaii Democratic primary for Gabbard's seat

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AP

FILE -- In this Jan. 15, 2020 file photo, is state Sen. Kai Kahele at the opening day of the Hawaii Sate Legislature in Honolulu. Kahele is favored to win the Democratic Partys nomination to represent Hawaiis 2nd Congressional District in the primary election. The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat who decided not to run for reelection so she could focus on her presidential campaign, which was ultimately unsuccessful. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File)

HONOLULU – Kai Kahele was prepared to do the unthinkable: take on an incumbent from his own party for a U.S. House seat.

He felt so strongly that Hawaii residents were being hurt by the presidential ambitions of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard that he announced early on he would challenge his fellow Democrat.

Then, just months after Kahele got in the race, Gabbard announced she wouldn’t seek re-election to the House seat she had held since 2013 and would instead focus on her campaign for the White House.

Kahele’s bold move paved the way for him to claim an easy victory Saturday in the Democratic primary for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.

The 46-year-old said it's been a long journey since he launched his campaign in January 2019 and it's exciting to get to this point.

“I’m looking forward to hitting the campaign trail again and marching to the general," Kahele said in an interview.

Kahele had such an advantage over his competitors that he spent the past four months on active duty in the Hawaii National Guard helping the state respond to the coronavirus pandemic. He was not able to conduct any campaign activities during that time.

“At times it’s been challenging because I wanted to be involved. We put so much time and effort into the campaign before I left. But at the same time, I was confident in the team that I had built and we had built together," Kahele said.