By Jim Ellis
Aug. 10, 2018 — Hawaii voters go to the polls tomorrow for a rare Saturday primary in what will likely be an election to choose a governor. The Democratic primary winner is a lock to carry the general election, and Gov. David Ige and US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) have been in a tough intra-party battle for months.
Ironically, Gov. Ige came to office in much the same way that Rep. Hanabusa hopes to succeed. That is, defeating a sitting Democratic governor in the primary. Four years ago, Ige, then a state senator, challenged and easily defeated incumbent Neil Abercrombie in a 66-31 percent Democratic primary thrashing.
For a time, it looked like history might repeat itself. Early in the race, and not long after the false missile attack alarm that became a national news story, Rep. Hanabusa was staked to large polling leads. In a Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategies mid-March survey, she led the governor, 47-27 percent. In late June, Q-Mark Research, polling for the Hanabusa Campaign, projected their candidate to a whopping 57-31 percent advantage.
But the big Hanabusa lead soon began to dissipate. The last recorded poll, from the Merriman River Group, a frequent Hawaii pollster, found the race coming full circle, and projecting Ige to a 43-34 percent lead. Earlier, Mason-Dixon, who forecast the 20-point Hanabusa advantage five months before the election, also found the governor to have fully rebounded into a 44-40 percent advantage when their polling window closed in mid-July. Therefore, tomorrow’s final result should be of great political interest.
At the federal level, Rep. Hanabusa’s open 1st District has drawn seven Democratic candidates, and tomorrow’s winner will become the prohibitive favorite for the November general election. Among the candidates are former 2nd District US Rep. Ed Case, Lt. Gov. Doug Chin, a state senator, two state representatives, a former state House member, and a retired federal INS agent.
The aforementioned Merriman River Group’s July poll found Case capturing the lead with Lt. Gov. Chin a close second. But it appears the 1st District contest is still anybody’s race.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D) is unopposed for re-nomination, and 2nd District Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Kailua) faces several minor opponents. Both are safe for re-election in the fall.