Democratic state Sen. Kai Kahele plans to amplify the voices of the neighbor islands after winning the U.S. House District 2 seat Tuesday night with 63% of the vote.
The 46-year old Kahele will fill the seat held by Tulsi Gabbard, who did not run for re-election, in 60 days.
Kahele defeated Republican businessman and former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst Joe Akana. He will join incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Case in the U.S. House of Representatives.
During a press conference Wednesday in Hilo, Hawaii Island native Kahele said he hopes to bring the perspective of the neighbor islands to the state’s four-person delegation and is excited to represent the people of Hawaii in Congress.
“I think one of things I bring is a particular voice for the neighboring islands,” Kahele said. “The challenges of living on a neighboring island are much different from those of Oahu.”
The second congressional district represents suburban Honolulu, rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, but has long been represented by politicians from Oahu.
“The state has decided to send a Hilo boy to the United States Congress, and that is very special,” Kahele said. “I’ve lived on Hawaii Island almost my entire life and understand the unique challenges we have here, as well as the challenges of other rural areas across the state.”
During his campaign, Kahele and his team spent a lot of time monitoring other campaigns and connecting with candidates throughout the country. As election results rolled in through the night Tuesday, it was clear the Democrats in the House would lose more seats than expected to Republicans.
“This will be a smaller class of freshmen than what I was expecting, unfortunately,” Kahele said. “It is tough, not only to run a campaign, but to also flip a seat or win an open House seat.”
Although ballots from the presidential election are still being counted in key states, Kahele is confident former Vice President Joe Biden will win the race.
“The country is very divided, as we saw last night, and there was not a blue wave that we hoped would sweep across the nation,” Kahele said. “However, a Biden presidency does look promising, looking at the numbers right now.”
When in office, Kahele said he would focus on COVID-19 relief and be open to compromise with the Senate, which most likely will remain a Republican majority.
“Regardless of the presidency, the House will have to negotiate with the Senate to get COVID-19 relief passed,” Kahele said. “In those negotiations, I will make sure Hawaii will get what we need.”
Kahele addressed Hawaii during a Facebook Live on his campaign page where he thanked his family, campaign team, political colleagues and supporters.
He also took the time to announce the launch of his official website that has listed various jobs available on his team in Washington, D.C., as well as Hawaii.
“We have a short amount of time, but we are going to be ready to go on Day One,” Kahele said.
Email Kelsey Walling at firstname.lastname@example.org