LIHUE — As four lanes of vehicles passed by Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and some of her supporters Monday afternoon, there was a lot of honking and waving and shouting.
And to Hanabusa, that’s a good sign.
“This reaction that gives you the best sense of how people are feeling,” said Hanabusa, who is challenging Gov. David Ige. “When people feel compelled from the inner lanes to toot at you and wave at you, that’s a great statement.”
The Democrat waved back, smiled and repeatedly said, “thank you.”
“I’ve had this reaction throughout the state,” Hanabusa continued as she stood near Kaumualii Highway by Kauai Community College. “No matter what anybody may say, the people are behind us in this campaign.”
The U.S. Representative met with Kauai veterans Monday morning, and later talked with people working on the Kauai Philippine Cultural Center project and checked in with business leaders.
Following lunch at Kukui Grove Center, she took a walk and visited with shoppers, asking about their concerns.
“It’s the best way to get a sense of the community and where people are,” she said as her supporters wearing white Hanabusa T-shirts waved signs that read, “Hanabusa for Governor.” “You have to come here and talk to them and find the issues.”
As with many running for office, it’s a busy final week heading into Saturday’s primary election. She was in Kona Sunday, will be in Honolulu today, Molokai Wednesday and then on to Hawaii Island later in the week.
She likes the way the campaign is going.
“We’re feeling really good,” Hanabusa said.
She believes people are taking a hard look at the state’s leadership, measuring the candidates and deciding who is the best person to lead Hawaii.
“It’s also a matter of our records and where we are and where we’ve come from and who they trust to bring us forward,” Hanabusa said.
A key question, she said, is “do people feel they are better off today?”
“We’re not,” Hanabusa said. “I think that’s underlining everything else. How do people feel in their hearts and their guts? That’s what it comes down to. It comes down to who they want to lead.”
There is no doubt in Hanabusa’s mind she is that person.
“I feel very confident that it is,” she said.
She again pointed to the missile alert crisis in January in Hawaii and that the Ige administration let 38 minutes pass before sending a second alert to let people know it was a false alert.
“What was going on in that 38 minutes?” she said.
Ige has previously said the false missile alert was caused by human error and steps have been taken to be sure it will not happen again.
She also pointed to the accidental release of a murder suspect, Brian Lee Smith, in late July from the Hawaii Community Correctional Center. He was free for two days before turning himself in.
“People are going, ‘What’s going on?” she said.
Ige released a statement that he was upset by what happened and officials were investigating the matter.
Hanabusa questioned why it took Ige so long to sign an executive order calling for expedited pay for Hawaii National Guard deployed for duty for the flooding on Kauai and lava flows on Hawaii Island.
About 600 guard personnel have served on the Big Island since the Kilauea volcano eruption in early May, the Associated Press reported, and about 100 are still there.
An estimated 150 members were deployed to Kauai during the flooding earlier this year, and about six remain to escort people in and out of flood areas, the AP said.
In some cases, guardsmen faced two to three weeks of processing time before receiving their first paycheck, AP reported.
“No matter how they spin it, there’s still a question of, ‘why didn’t you take care of the guards?’ Hanabusa said. “Yes, deploy them. But why aren’t they paid?”
Ige signed a proclamation Friday extending disaster emergency relief and enacting a provision allowing state agencies “to pay, as expeditiously as possible.” But Hanabusa said it took too long for Ige to act.
“Those are the things I think weigh heavily on people,” she said, “and people want a new leader.”