Well, we have another Primary Election under our belts–another day in the state’s history when we let a sliver of the population narrow our choices for political leadership. As expected, turnout statewide was pretty lousy–a mere 34.8 percent of Hawaii’s registered voters actually showed up (in Maui County, turnout was an even worse 29.6 percent). But even these numbers seem high when you factor in that only about 60 percent or so of the state’s adults are actually registered to vote.
But hey, that’s democracy, right? People can vote, or they register their general apathy by doing something else, even though Hawaii makes it absurdly easy to vote.
That being said, we had some genuine surprises in this election (click here for the Hawaii Office of Elections’ certified statewide results). Sure, both U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, D–Hawaii, and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D–2nd District, cruised to victory over their Democratic challengers. Incumbents are notoriously difficult to knock out in primary contests, and given that Schatz and Gabbard basically acted as though their primary challengers didn’t exist, their respective victories were all but guaranteed. Though I must say, Democrat Shay Chan Hodges, who ran against Gabbard, turned in one of the most cost-efficient vote tallies in Maui County, spending a mere 21 cents in campaign money for each of her 14,643 votes. Granted, she lost by nearly 66,000 votes, but when you’re a severely under-funded candidate who can’t even get the incumbent to agree to a debate, this is what happens.
For Maui County voters, there were a variety of state contests on the ballot. Most were foregone conclusions (Speaker Joe Souki, D–Wailuku, easily trounced Democratic challenger Richard Abbett, while Rep. Justin Woodson, D–Kahului, and Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, D–Kahului, ran completely unopposed). But the Legislative seats representing South Maui and Upcountry were different. In South Maui, Democratic Rep. Kaniela Ing faced a particularly well-funded challenger in former state Chief of Protocol Deidre Tegarden (who collected tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from big business and land developers), while Upcountry, Democratic Rep. Kyle Yamashita had to fend off Aloha Aina Project activist Tiare Lawrence.
Though Ing faced a series of bad headlines in both this paper and The Maui News over the revelation that he’d racked up a bench warrant back in February for missing a court hearing on an auto insurance violation, Ing soundly defeated Tegarden, 2,117 votes to her 1,219. Tegarden’s defeat is even more dramatic when you account for her campaign’s $96,487 in expenditures–more than twice what Ing spent. Put another way, Ing spent about $19.30 per vote to win, while Tegarden spent an astonishing $79.15 per vote to lose. In that same district, Republican Danny Pekus ran unopposed, so it’ll be interesting to see if the big money that backed Tegarden switches to him as we move to the General Election in November.
The Upcountry legislative race was a lot tighter, with both Yamashita and Lawrence spending $9-10 per vote. But in the end, incumbent Yamashita won out, 2,763 votes to 2,411. Since no one else was running in that district, Yamashita’s victory amounts to reelection.
Over in the Maui County Council races, the big story was the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu race, in which five candidates were vying to replace termed out Mike Victorino. In that race, former Councilmember Dain Kane came in first with 6,443 votes, but Shaka Movement activist Alika Atay came in second with 6,354 votes. Kane, a well-known name in local politics, spent not quite $30,000 on his race, which amounted to a respectable $4.41 per vote. Atay, on the other hand, spent just $17,677, which came to a miniscule $2.78 per vote. Both men will go on to the General Election in November. The same can’t be said for County Managing Director Keith Regan, who spent a remarkable $111,473 on the race, which came to $18.52 per vote, just to lose to Atay by 337 votes.
The other open Council seat was Upcountry, in which four candidates were battling to succeed termed-out Gladys Baisa. In that race, longtime local Democratic Party official Yuki Lei Sugimura and singer/cultural specialist Napua Greig-Nakasone came out on top, though Sugimura beat Greig-Nakasone by more than 3,000 votes.
In the other Council races on the ballot, incumbent Don Couch (South Maui) came out on top as expected with 11,305 votes, though Pacific Biodiesel co-founder Kelly King turned in a strong-second place showing with 8,439 votes. Both will move on to the November General Election.
As will incumbent Councilman Mike White (Makawao-Haiku-Paia) and challenger Trinette Furtado, though White bested Furtado by more than 5,500 votes.
See everyone again in three months!
Many of the candidates moving on to the General Election have completed questionnaires for our Know Your Candidate feature. Click here to read them.
Photo courtesy Alika Atay