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.
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 traveling, 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.
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.
Chin said the state’s strategic military importance would also be a major issue for him in 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.”
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 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.
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.
Sen. Kim, who represents Kalihi and Moanalua, touted her 35 years of experience in state and city government.
“Someone with the tenacity to be able to make sure Hawaii’s agenda is first and foremost,” said Kim, a former state Senate president.
Her priorities in Congress would be health care, caring for the elderly, making higher education affordable, veterans’ care and women’s issues including access to contraception, she said.