It’s Official: Former Hawai‘i Attorney General Doug Chin is Now Lt. Governor

Chin says he’s following others who ran for Congress while serving in the No. 2 job.
Doug Chin
Photo: David Croxford

Former state Attorney General Doug Chin today, Friday, Feb. 2, took the oath of office as Hawai‘i Lieutenant Governor following Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui’s abrupt resignation on Monday, Jan. 29.


SEE ALSO: Hawai‘i Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui Announces Resignation from State Government


Chin said he sees the opportunity to serve in the No. 2 spot to Democratic Gov. David Ige as an extension of his public service. “Public service is a privilege. This was not my plan, but it is the order of succession and I am answering a call to serve,” Chin said in a written statement.


“In 18 years, I have been a prosecutor and the managing director for the City and County of Honolulu, and Hawai‘i attorney general. Each opportunity has shown me how important and valuable the people of Hawai‘i are, and how critical it is for our leaders to find solutions and preserve Hawai‘i’s values.”


Chin had gained a national spotlight for challenging key policy moves of President Donald Trump, including efforts to limit immigration. When Rep. Colleen Hanabusa announced she was leaving Congress to run against Ige, Chin announced he would step down in mid-March to campaign full time.


On Jan. 7, Doug Chin said in a statement: “I am stepping down as attorney general so that I can run for Congress with the same intensity and energy that I bring to working for Hawai‘i each day.”


Today he said, “I intend to follow the good examples of prior leaders who campaigned for other offices while they were Hawai‘i’s lieutenant governor," in response to our question about why this office allowed him the opportunity to serve while campaigning. “Being the Attorney General raised issues related to legal conflicts that don’t arise for the lieutenant governor,” he says.


According to state law, the attorney general stands third in a succession line to fill the lieutenant governor position if it becomes vacant, after the president of the state Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives. On Monday, Jan. 29, state Senate President Ron Kouchi turned down the post after Tsutsui announced he was leaving. House Speaker Scott Saiki declined the next day.


Other Democrats who have said they will run for Hanabusa’s seat include former state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, state Rep. Kaniela Ing and Honolulu City Council member Ernie Martin.


(Read more about Doug Chin’s background and beliefs here)


Chin is the 13th person to serve as lieutenant governor. He noted that both Hawai‘i U.S. senators, Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, earlier served in that No. 2 post. Hanabusa is running against Chin’s boss, Ige.


Ige thanked Chin for his work as the state’s top law enforcement official and says he looks forward to “continued collaboration with him” in the new role. “I have appointed Russell Suzuki to serve as acting attorney general and am confident he will provide expert direction for the department until I announce the appointment of a new attorney general,” Ige said in a written statement.


Suzuki has been a government attorney for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of Leilehua High School, the University of Hawai‘i and the Ohio State University Law School.


As a deputy attorney general, Suzuki was the state’s lead attorney for more than a decade in the Felix consent decree litigation involving the delivery of mental health services to disabled children. 


The No. 2 job is often seen as an effective springboard for politicians aspiring to higher office. But Tsutsui’s sudden bolt this week in the wake of the spectacle of the Jan. 13 false missile alert has put additional pressure on Ige and suggests that his re-election battle would be hard-fought. With the primary election in August, the term could be a short one.


When he announced his resignation, Tsutsui declined to comment on who he would support in the governor’s race.