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.
The open 1st Congressional District Democratic primary result produced a familiar face preparing to return to Washington. Former 2nd District Congressman Ed Case won the party nomination with 40 percent of the vote, defeating Lt. Gov. Doug Chin and state Sen. Donna Mercado, who had 25 and 18 percent, respectively. Four others posted less than seven percent support.
Case served two terms in the House, originally winning a pair of 2002-03 special elections called to replace the late Rep. Patsy Mink (D). Case won both of those elections within a year of losing his race for governor.
After Mink died, she was still re-elected to a full term in the 2002 regular election. Under Hawaii election law, a special election was necessitated to fill the balance of what was the current term, which Case won on Nov.30, 2002, and then a new special election was held the following January to fill the entire term in the new Congress. Case won both electoral contests against a large field of Democratic and Republican candidates, one of whom, ironically, was Colleen Hanabusa. Prior to his election to Congress, Case served eight years in the Hawaii House of Representatives.
Come 2006, in a bizarre move, Rep. Case challenged veteran Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary, and predictably lost. In 2010, he entered the 1st District special election, and fell to Republican Djou in a jungle special election that featured a host of Democrats including, once again, Hanabusa.
Two years later, he would challenge then-Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) to replace the retiring Sen. Akaka, and again lost to her as he did in the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Now, he successfully wins the 1st District party nomination over this past weekend, which virtually guarantees that he will be returning to Congress after what should be an easy general election campaign against former state representative and frequent Republican candidate Cam Cavasso.
For her part, Sen. Hirono was unopposed in Saturday’s Democratic primary and is the prohibitive favorite to defeat the new Republican nominee, retired computer engineer Ron Curtis, in the general election.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Kailua) easily defeated two Democratic opponents with 84 percent of the vote, and is also a sure bet to claim a third term in the fall.