Winners of Hawaii's Democratic primaries favored in November

HONOLULU (AP) — The winners of most of the Democratic Party's primary races in Hawaii this weekend will be the favorites to win the general election in November.

The most hotly contested matches in this deep blue state on Saturday are for governor and the state's 1st Congressional District. Polls closed at 6 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is challenging one-term incumbent Gov. David Ige in the gubernatorial primary. The move has echoes of four years ago when Ige, then a state senator, challenged and defeated a sitting governor, Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the primary.

Both Hanabusa and Ige are experienced, long-time politicians in Hawaii, leading to a close race.

Jinjer Boots, 26, a Democrat, voted for Hanabusa. As she left her polling place Saturday with her daughter, Cataleia, 3, Boots said Hanabusa is fighting for women's rights and that was a major factor for her.

"I like that she fights for women's rights," she said. "I do think that she will speak up more for us, with Ige he was very quiet."

Boots described herself as a working-class Honolulu resident who has lived in the islands her entire life. She said she was terrified by January's false missile alert.

"I thought I was going to die," Boots said. "I thought about how she's not going to grow up," she said of her daughter and the possibility of a nuclear attack.

Three Republicans, including House Minority Leader state Rep. Andria Tupola, are vying for the Republican nomination. Former Pearl Harbor nonprofit CEO Ray L'Heureux and former state senator John Carroll are the other two.

Daryl Chang, a Republican who works in the medical field in Honolulu, voted for a Democrat in Saturday's gubernatorial primary.

"I voted for Ige" Chang said.

"Ige is quiet," Chang said. "I think he is thoughtful and he does what he thinks is right."

Some in Hawaii have been critical of Ige's response to the false missile alert, but Chang, 64, said he doesn't see the governor as being ultimately responsible.

"There's deficiencies in all the departments." Chang said of the emergency department that sent the alert. "I didn't blame Ige for it."

Robert Quartero, 50, a Native Hawaiian and community organizer from Honolulu, said he didn't know who he would vote for in the gubernatorial race, even as he stood outside a polling station.

"In this election, I'm still not decided. I haven't voted yet today," he said.

Quartero, who has lived in Hawaii his entire life, said Ige's first term has been marked by a lack of leadership, "especially running away from the missile crisis and disappearing," he said.

Quartero also criticized the governor's handling of flooding on Kauai and the volcanic eruption on the Big Island, saying Ige only shows up after the worst of a disaster is over.

"Ige hides until everything clears up and then he come out and he's like, 'OK how we going to fix this?'" Quertero said. "For me, Ige is not a leader."

He doesn't like Hanabusa for governor, either, saying she's become "too entangled" with unethical people in the community.

Six major figures from the Democratic Party are competing to succeed Hanabusa in Washington.

The diverse list includes a 65-year-old fiscally conservative Democrat and a 29-year-old democratic socialist who advocates giving all Americans Medicare and making college tuition free. Two of the others gained notoriety by opposing President Donald Trump.

Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case, the fiscal conservative, leads the field in name recognition and experience, having served in Congress before.

Asami Kobayashi, who has been volunteering for the Case campaign, said she liked his message of bipartisanship.

"That's something that we really need right now when Congress seems to be really divided," Kobayashi said.

Another contender, Lt. Gov. Doug Chin, gained popularity when he was state attorney general by leading Hawaii's lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's ban on travelers from several mostly Muslim-majority countries.

That, along with his support for boosting spending on public education and boosting teacher salaries, earned Chin earned the endorsement of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, one of the state's most powerful unions.

"We have seen that Doug Chin is courageous and is willing to take unpopular stands in order to protect minorities in this country," said Corey Rosenlee, the union's president.

Also running are veteran lawmaker Donna Mercado Kim, a former state Senate president, and Ernie Martin, the current chairman of the Honolulu City Council.

Kaniela Ing, a state representative, is hoping his calls for tuition free college, cancelling student debt and Medicare-for-all will help him reprise the dramatic come-from-behind victory his New York democratic socialist colleague, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, scored two months ago. Ocasio-Cortez defeated a powerful sitting congressman in her Democratic primary in June.

On Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez stumped for Ing in Honolulu.

Ocasio-Cortez said she was down 35 points in the polls before upsetting a 10-term incumbent in the New York primary. "And we changed that in two weeks because we were talking to people who hadn't been excited about the political process before," she told Hawaii News Now.

Beth Fukumoto is another candidate who made her name opposing Trump. In her case, she was a member of the Republican Party, serving as the House Minority Leader in the state House of Representatives, when she criticized Trump during the Women's March in Honolulu. Members of her party asked her to resign her leadership post afterward. In response, she quit the party altogether and joined the Democrats.

Fukumoto's defection whittled the Republican Party's presence in the state House to just five out of 51 members. There is currently no Republican in the 25-member state Senate.

There is also no Republican among the state's four-person Congressional delegation in Washington.

The GOP is fielding candidates in five of the 13 state Senate districts up for election this year. It has candidates running in less than 20 of the state's 51 House districts.

Turnout for the last midterm primary election in 2014 was 41.5 percent.

The state has made it easier to vote this year, allowing people to register on the day of the election at their polling place. People used to have to register a month before the election.

Hawaii has open primaries, meaning voters don't have to be members of a political party to vote for its candidates.

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