Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

Hawaii: Mazie Hirono, Tulsi Gabbard Win Primaries

Rep. Mazie Hirono won her Senate primary and is favored to win the seat in November. (Tom Williams/Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Mazie Hirono easily won her Democratic Senate primary Saturday, and Honolulu City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard scored an upset victory in the Democratic primary to replace Hirono in the House.

In heavily Democratic Hawaii, both Hirono and Gabbard are favored to win in November as well, especially with homegrown President Barack Obama on the ticket.

Hirono defeated former Rep. Ed Case, 58 percent to 41 percent, a 17-point win that matches the margin her pollster, Benenson Strategy Group, had the race in an internal survey released Tuesday. Hirono, now in her third term in the House, will face former Gov. Linda Lingle, who had nominal opposition in the GOP primary.

Surprisingly, the 2nd district primary margin was even wider. Gabbard defeated Mufi Hannemann 55 percent to 34 percent. Gabbard, 31, launched her campaign last year, a week after Hirono entered the Senate race. Hannemann, 58, entered the race as the frontrunner three months later, but about $600,000 in outside spending helped Gabbard not only close the gap, but cruise to victory.

The 1st district general election will feature a rematch between Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) and former Rep. Charles Djou (R), who faced each other in the May 2010 special and the 2010 general election. Hanabusa is heavily favored to win again.

Lingle’s presence has kept the Senate contest among the races to watch nationally, even though Democrats remain favored to hold the seat of retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka. In remarks last night, Hirono asked voters to look beyond their personal feelings about Lingle, who was elected governor twice, and recognize what her election would mean for control of the Senate and the policy changes that would follow — including the repeal of Obama’s health care law.

“So whatever you may think of Linda Lingle — know that this is what her election would represent — one of the four seats the national Republicans need to take control of the U.S. Senate,” Hirono said, according to a copy of her speech. “So I say to Linda Lingle tonight — let’s go. Let’s have debates on the issues and what is right for Hawaii — on every major television station in our state.”

In a statement, Lingle highlighted her record of working across the aisle but recognized the tough campaign she is about to face.

“My opponent, Mazie Hirono, and her third party allies are likely to spend more than one million dollars attacking me and distorting my record,” Lingle said. “But the people of Hawaii know me, they know my record, and they know that I am experienced in making the tough decisions necessary while always putting people first.”


    Even without the unconventional, cross-party support of Last Frontier colleague Don Young, this contest is Hirono’s to lose: 1) In the brief history of its statehood, this state has sent to the US Senate only those persons who are of Democratic Party affiliation, Asian/Pacific Islander ancestry, or both. 2) Since circa 1993, even the most durable politicos who have been elected governor of states dominated by the opposition party have notably failed when they sought to advance(?) to the Senate (e.g. Bill Weld and Ben Nelson in 1996, and Tony Knowles in 2004).

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