By Jim Ellis
Gov. David Ige (D-HI)
Aug. 13, 2018 — The Hawaii primary was held on Saturday, and while Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) began her Democratic primary challenge as a virtual favorite to deny Gov. David Ige re-nomination — at one time she led by more than 20 points according to several polls — the incumbent rebounded to score a 51-44 percent victory. Winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to claiming the general election, meaning the November contest between Gov. Ige and state House Minority Leader Andrea Tupola (R-Kapolei), the new Republican nominee, is likely to be a mere formality.
Rep. Hanabusa was originally elected to the House in 2010, defeating then-Rep. Charles Djou (R-Honolulu) in that year’s general election. In 2014, she challenged appointed Sen. Brian Schatz in the Democratic primary after the passing of veteran Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), who served in Congress from the day when Hawaii became a state.
Hanabusa returned to the House in 2016 when her successor, Rep. Mark Takai (D-Aiea), passed away from pancreatic cancer. Quickly after making her way back to Washington, however, the congresswoman decided to launch the intra-party challenge to Gov. Ige who himself had unseated a Democratic governor, Neil Abercrombie, in the 2014 primary campaign.
Ige hit rock bottom in this contest when a false alarm catastrophic missile attack warning was unleashed, sending panic throughout the islands, and his poll numbers unsurprisingly dropped precipitously in the aftermath. But he rebounded to re-generate support from his Democratic base, improve his job approval ratio, and substantially increase his lagging fundraising operation. Polling had detected the momentum change within the last two weeks of the primary cycle, and an Ige lead was being widely reported as the two candidates headed into the election’s final days.
The Democratic turnout was 242,413 voters, most of whom voted early, which is about 5,000 more than voted in the last midterm when Ige defeat then-Gov. Abercrombie in a 66-31 percent landslide margin. By contrast, Saturday’s GOP turnout was only 31,134 individuals.