Election Preview: Hawaii Gubernatorial Primary

Primary Election: August 11, 2018
General Election: November 6, 2018

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Governor David Ige (D- HI)

Democratic Governor David Ige is running for a second term as chief executive of the Aloha State. First elected in 2014, Ige defeated Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie in the primary by a 35-point margin—the first time in state history an incumbent was defeated in a party primary. Ige’s first term was highlighted by a homelessness crisis which resulted in a declared state of emergency in 2015. The Governor also remains committed to the Paris Climate Agreement after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States. According to a Morning Consult poll from February, Ige has a 46-percent approval rating, while his disapproval rating sits at 38 percent.

Ige will face three challengers in the Democratic party primary. He has entered the 2018 campaign with more than $940,000 on hand, while Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa has quickly become Ige’s chief political rival. Hanabusa has attacked Ige for a lack of leadership and collaboration with the private sector. Hanabusa has locked up support from Democratic figures like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui, and state and local labor unions. In early April 2018, the State House Speaker Scott Saiki, State Rep. Sylvia Luke, State Senate President Ron Kouchi, and State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz all signed a fundraising letter for Hanabusa, criticizing the governor for his “inattention, indecision, and inaction.” Hanabusa’s campaign raised more than $730,000 in the last four months of 2017 (96 percent came from individual donations). Former State Senator Clayton Hee and perennial candidate Wendell Kaehuaea are also running. Polling conducted by Mason-Dixon from March 13-18 found Hanabusa leading with 47 percent, while Ige trailed with 27 percent. Fifteen percent remained undecided.

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Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (D- HI-1)

In the Republican primary, two candidates are seeking to capture the GOP nomination. Former State Representative and Senator John Carroll and State House Minority Leader Andria Tupola both want to become the second Republican governor in state history (the Republicans last controlled the governor’s office in 2010). Currently, Republicans control five of 51 seats in the State House and none in the State Senate. Last year, Tupola was defeated in a race for Chair of the Hawaii Republican Party by businesswoman Shirlene Ostrov. Carrol, who is 88 and hasn’t served in government since 1981, leads Tupola with 40 percent of the vote, while Tupola has 28 percent, according to the March polling from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball all list the race as “solid Democrat.”

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