By Jim Ellis
Aug. 16, 2016 — Hawaii’s primary voters went to the polls over the weekend to nominate their state and federal general election candidates.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D) easily won re-nomination from the Democratic Party, recording just over 80 percent of the vote to secure his bid for a full term. He now faces the Republican primary winner, John Carroll, a former state senator who is a frequent federal candidate. Sen. Schatz will have little trouble winning the general election. He was appointed to the seat when Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) passed away in 2012, and won the 2014 special election to serve the balance of the current term.
Two years ago, interim-Sen. Schatz defeated then-Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) for the party nomination, but the former congresswoman now appears headed back to Washington. She won a landslide Democratic primary victory Saturday (74.6 percent) for her former congressional seat.
With the general election now just a formality in the heavily Democratic 1st District, Hanabusa will join the current Congress upon winning the concurrent special held in conjunction with the regular election on Nov. 8. Hanabusa will fill the remainder of the late Rep. Mark Takai’s (D-Aiea) first and final term in office. The congressman passed away from pancreatic cancer on July 20.
As expected, two-term Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Kailua) scored a 78 percent win in her Democratic primary and will romp to an easy general election victory in the fall.
In the Honolulu mayor’s race, former US Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI-1) advanced to the general election against Mayor Kirk Caldwell (D). The mayor took only 43.7 percent in the jungle primary format, meaning Djou finished just 1,537 votes behind the incumbent with a vote percentage of 42.8. Honolulu’s controversial rail project is the dominant issue in the island-wide mayor’s race.
Turnout was a record low in terms of percentage of registered voters participating. Just 34.7 percent of the qualified voters went to the polls or cast their ballot early. Approximately eight percent of the participating individuals took advantage of the pre-Election Day voting system. The 251,959 raw number recorded votes was not an all-time low, however.
Voters in the Last Frontier will go to the polls Tuesday. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), after losing her 2010 Republican primary only to return to the Senate via write-in vote as an Independent in the general election, has little opposition in 2016. Originally, former Anchorage mayor, Dan Sullivan (R), had filed to challenge her but soon decided to withdraw from the campaign almost as quickly as it had begun. This left Murkowski with only three minor GOP opponents to overcome. None of the Democrats or Independents appear strong enough to provide her with any real competition in the general election.
In the at-large congressional race, Rep. Don Young (R-Fort Yukon) is expected to face former Alaska Public Media CEO Steve Lindbeck (D) who has raised approximately $500,000 to date. Young, who will be running for a 22nd term, remains a solid favorite for re-election.
With only one statewide race on Tuesday’s primary ballot, all eyes will be on the Republican at-large US House primary as Liz Cheney (R) — daughter of former vice president, defense secretary, and Wyoming congressman, Dick Cheney (R) — attempts to win the open seat nomination contest.
Nine GOP candidates are vying for the opportunity of succeeding retiring Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Cheyenne) who decided against seeking a fifth term in office.
Cheney has raised approximately $1.5 million for the campaign, and her closest Republican challenger, state Rep. Tim Stubson (R) has amassed less than $300,000. The only other elected official in the field of candidates, state Sen. Leland Christensen (R), commands just about half of Stubson’s financial receipts total.
Cheney, whose Wyoming residence always draws questions because she has lived most of her life in Virginia and only recently moved back to the Equality State, briefly challenged Sen. Mike Enzi (R) in the 2014 GOP primary but then backed away from the race. She returned to the campaign trail immediately upon Rep. Lummis announcing her retirement.
Two individuals are competing for the Democratic nomination, but none will be serious competition in the general election. Tomorrow’s Republican contest will determine Lummis’ successor, and Liz Cheney appears to be on track for victory.