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Hawaiian Voters to Punch General Election Tickets on Saturday

August 11, 2022 by Dan McCue
Hawaiian Voters to Punch General Election Tickets on Saturday
Former Hawaii First Lady Vicky Cayetano

HONOLULU — Though no one expects Hawaii to reject its deep blue heritage on Saturday and send a crop of Republicans on to electoral glory in November, Saturday’s primary does have an air of change about it.

The decision by Rep. Kai Kahele, D-Hawaii, to run for governor has resulted in an active, wide open race in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, and similarly, incumbent Gov. David Ige’s term limit-fueled departure has made for a spirited, multi-candidate race for the statehouse.

Come November, Hawaiians will not only be deciding who fills these seats, but also that of the lieutenant governor and those of all 76 of the state’s legislative districts as well.

The thing to remember is Hawaii is one of the most Democratic states in the country, so the winners in Saturday’s Democratic primaries are heavily favored to win.

2nd Congressional District

The two Democrats running are Patrick Branco and Jill Tokuda. Heading into the final days of the race, Branco has been the clear beneficiary of aid from super PACS, which have spent more than $1 million in the contest slamming Tokuda. One group lambasted her for the 2012 endorsement she received from the National Rifle Association.

Another has criticized her for taking thousands in donations from Monsanto, and then helping to kill legislation it did not like.

Despite this, the political pundit class in the state expects Tokuda to win.

She’s the better-known candidate of the two, having run statewide races before, and she’s served for more than a decade in the state Legislature while Branco is only now completing his first two-year term in the state House.

The key in the race, no doubt, will be the undecideds. In a recent Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll, Tokuda led Branco 31% to 6%. However, the undecideds made up a stunning 63% of respondents, continuing to make this anybody’s race.

On the Republican side, there’s Joe Webster, a former PayPal employee who now owns a company that rents Jeeps to tourists, and Joe Akana, who ran against Kahele in 2020, and is seen as a hardcore Trump acolyte.

While attending a “Stop the Steal” rally in Honolulu on Jan. 6, 2021 — the same day pro-Trump insurgents stormed the U.S. Capitol — Akana gave an interview with local station KITV in which he not only said he believed Trump won the 2020 presidential election, but also called into question his own election results. (Kahele won by a punishing 58% to 28%.)

Webster, no surprise, has cast himself as the pragmatic Republican alternative. He’s an abortion-rights advocate, supports gay marriage and would vote in favor of stricter gun control regulations, including a ban on assault weapons.

And unlike Akana, he actually acknowledges that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

Both do have two realities in common: They both know that no Republican has ever represented Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. Secondly, they know Republicans are a longshot in the state. To date, only three members of the GOP have ever represented the state in Congress since statehood in 1959. They are Hiram Fong, Pat Saiki and Charles Djou.

There is also a Libertarian in the race, Michelle Tippens, a disabled veteran, who has repeatedly appealed for the striking down of the Jones Act, which, she says, has crippled the Hawaiian economy, and kept the state’s maritime and port industries growing.

1st Congressional District

Three-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Ed Case is heavily favored to win his primary over Sergio Alcubilla, a public interest lawyer and first-time candidate, who trails Case considerably in campaign contributions and name recognition.

Should Case prevail, he will likely be running against Conrad Kress, a former Navy SEAL who spent more than four decades in the military.

US Senate

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz is about as shoe-in as a candidate can be when it comes to reelection prospects — he’s well liked by his constituents and he’s well funded.

But he’s facing a determined Republican challenger in November in state Rep. Bob McDermott, who has name recognition and a single focus — to close down the Navy’s bulk fuel storage facility at Red Hill, which last year leaked gallons of jet fuel into the aquifer, sickening thousands.

McDermott claims Schatz knew of the hazard posed by the facility, but did nothing to stop it.

Another candidate on the GOP primary ballot is Timothy Dalhouse, a recent transplant to Hawaii who lives on the Big Island, where he runs a project management company.

He has been targeting Republican voters with ads stating that he’s a combat veteran on a mission to stop “Socialist Democrats” from defunding the police and allowing “illegal immigrants” into the country.

State Contests

When it comes to the governor’s race, several Democrats have lined up to succeed Ige. Aside from Kahele, the field includes Lt. Gov. Joshua Green, a doctor whose profile rose during the pandemic, and former Hawaii First Lady Vicky Cayetano.

Other names in the race include David Bourgoin, Richard Kim, Clyde Lewman and Van Tanabe.

On the Republican side, the frontrunners appear to be Duke Aiona, a lawyer and administrative law judge, and Heidi Tsuneyoshi, a behavioral health specialist.

The other names in the race are Gary Cordery, George Hawat, Keline-Kameyo Kahau, Lynn Barry Mariano, Paul Morgan, Moses Paskowitz, BJ Penn and Walter Woods.

Those making a bid to be the state’s new lieutenant governor include Democrats Keith Amemiya, Ikaika Anderson, Sylvia Luke and Sherry Menor-McNamara.

The Republicans in the race are Rob Burns, Tae Kim and Seaula Tupai.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and @DanMcCue

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