Races for Congress top Hawaii’s ballot on Election Day

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald U.S. Rep. candidate Kai Kahele monitors election results Tuesday at his Hilo headquarters. Kahele and his team have been following more than 50 state races and connected with 33 potential future colleagues.

HONOLULU — Races for two U.S. House seats topped the ballot on Tuesday in Hawaii.

Democratic State Sen. Kai Kahele and Republican Joe Akana were vying to succeed U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who did not run for re-election and instead chose to focus her energy on an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for president.

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If elected, Kahele and Akana would each be the second Native Hawaiian to serve in Congress since statehood. The seat they sought represents suburban Honolulu and islands other than Oahu.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden has won Hawaii’s four electoral votes in the presidential election. The Democratic nominee defeated Republican President Donald Trump Tuesday.

Biden was expected to win the heavily Democratic state. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Hawaii was in 1984, when the islands voted to re-elect Ronald Reagan to a second term.

Kahele is an advocate of Medicare for All and supports the idea of a Green New Deal to address climate change and help Hawaii meet its clean energy goals.

Kahele has served in the state Senate since 2016, when he was first appointed to fill the remainder of his father’s term after he died. He was elected for the first time later that year.

Akana is a former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst and businessman. He has a master’s degree in business administration from Hawaii Pacific University and a master’s degree in strategic intelligence from National Intelligence University.

In the race to represent urban Honolulu, incumbent U.S. Rep. Ed Case faces Republican Ron Curtis.

Case, a Democrat, was first elected to the seat two years ago. He represented Hawaii’s other congressional district from 2002 to 2007 and served in the state House from 1994 to 2002.

He has been an attorney for Outrigger Hotels and Resorts and worked at multiple law firms.

Curtis is a retired engineer. He ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono in 2018.

In the presidential race, Democrat Joe Biden was expected to win Hawaii over incumbent President Donald Trump in the heavily blue state. Biden served eight years as vice president for Hawaii-born President Barack Obama.

Autumn Goerts, a Democrat from Honolulu, voted for Biden.

“I believe that if Trump’s isolationist policies continue, we’re not going to have advocacy for peace between nations,” said said.

Honolulu resident Blair Cabaluna, who voted for Trump, said he cast his ballot for righteousness.

“And I stood up for the principles that I grew up as a Christian believer. So that’s why I vote Republican,” said Cabaluna, who owns a cleaning business.

Tuesday’s ballot marked Hawaii’s first all-mail general election.

As of Monday, more than 526,000 people had voted — a figure 20% higher than the total election turnout four years ago. That is a record for the number of people who have voted in a Hawaii election. The previous record was marked in 2008, when 456,064 people voted the year Obama was first elected president.

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Hawaii voters have also had the option of casting their ballots in person at a select few voter service centers in the weeks leading up to the election. Only about 19,000 people voted this way as of Monday.

Democratic Gov. David Ige signed legislation switching the state to a vote-by-mail system last year before the coronavirus pandemic struck. Hawaii was the fifth state to adopt all-mail voting after Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

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