Hawaii attorney general announces run for US Congress

By , on December 19, 2017


Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, who has been fighting President Donald Trump's travel ban and other policies over the past year, has announced he will run for U.S. Congress. (Photo By ThinkTech Hawaii, CC BY 3.0)
Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, who has been fighting President Donald Trump’s travel ban and other policies over the past year, has announced he will run for U.S. Congress. (Photo By ThinkTech Hawaii, CC BY 3.0)

HONOLULU — Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, who has been fighting President Donald Trump’s travel ban and other policies over the past year, has announced he will run for U.S. Congress.

Chin, a Democrat, seeks to replace Hawaii U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is running for governor. Hanabusa is also a Democrat.

Chin made the announcement Monday saying that the last year of legal battles over White House actions sparked him to run for the U.S. House seat.

Chin has been a vocal opponent to decisions by Trump’s administration.

Before Trump was sworn in, Chin and five other attorneys general asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general. The prosecutors said in a letter dated Jan. 17 that they had “grave concern” that Sessions would “diligently and fairly enforce all laws protective of civil rights, public safety, health and welfare.”

Chin told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Sunday that he first considered running for office while listening to a Sessions speech.

“He actually made some speech to all 50 state AGs where he announced falsely that crime was at an all-time high in the United States and that the reason why it was at an all-time high was due to illegal immigrants being in the country,” Chin said. “I found that statement to be so troubling that it really woke me up in terms of the actions I think all of us need to take responsibility for in order to make a difference.”

A week after taking office, Trump issued an executive order aimed at temporarily banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

On Feb. 3, the state of Hawaii sued to stop the ban.

Trump’s executive order keeps Hawaii families apart and keeps residents from travelling, Chin said.

“I think we live in very extraordinary times, I think Hawaii’s progressive values that it fought for the past decades has been under attack in a lot of different ways, and I’ve experienced it first hand, starting with the travel ban and then extending to attacks on transgender people in the military or the children of immigrants,” Chin said.

Chin has sued over every version of the travel ban, calling the measure discriminatory toward Muslims.

“I’ve ended up being in court over and over again to stop some of the different actions that have been taken by the Trump administration,” he said. “To me, going to Congress, it feels like the right next step.”

Hawaii argued that the ban discriminates on the basis of nationality and would prevent Hawaii residents from receiving visits from relatives in the mostly Muslim countries covered by the ban.

“It’s the daily attacks on people’s civil rights and the attacks on different protected classes that really motivates me,” he said.

Chin said affordability in Hawaii and the state’s strategic military importance would also be major issues if he were elected to Congress.

“Words and tweets that have come from this administration have been exceptionally troublesome and has raised a lot of fear here in Hawaii,” Chin said of the tensions between North Korea and Washington. “I think that’s all the more reason to advocate for a strong military presence but also strong diplomatic relationships with all foreign countries. That seems to be absent right now.”

Chin is the son of Chinese immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 1950s. His father was an interpreter for the U.S. during the Korean War, he said. Chin is married with two children.

He was appointed to be Hawaii’s attorney general in 2015.

Several Democratic lawmakers have also announced they would run for the seat, including state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim and Rep. Kaniela Ing.

Ing told the AP on Monday that he is concerned about corporate funding of other candidates, including Chin, and said that his campaign is the only one in the state not accepting any corporate money.

“The biggest problem in Hawaii isn’t homelessness or housing, I know those are big problems, but the biggest problem is there is too much power in too few hands,” Ing said. “Changing politicians doesn’t really mean anything when there are the same corporate donors pulling the strings.”

Ing said he is running on issues that matter most to people in Hawaii.

“That is Medicare for all, tuition-free college, you know, universal job guarantee and really standing with working families,” Ing said, adding that he came from such a family and started working in pineapple fields at the age of 14 after his father passed away. “I relied on government programs to survive, and if Trump and the GOP had their way I’d be on the streets right now.”

Ing is also an opponent of Chin’s views on the military in Hawaii, saying that the military presence in the islands not only makes the state a target from threats like North Korea, but also hurts housing affordability for locals.