Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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Religious vote in Hawaii went MIA in primary election

By Richard Borreca


Hawaii's conservative Christian voters must not have gotten the word that there was an election last Saturday.

Hawaii's non-tsunami tsunami back in February had more impact than the voters ready to strike down the supporters of civil unions and same-sex marriage.

The forces worrying whether Neil Abercrombie belonged to an organized religion or actually was an Episcopalian must have gone surfing on Saturday.

And those who faithfully listened to Mufi Hannemann preaching to them for two year's worth of Sundays were either praying or out doing good deeds, because they didn't clog the voting booths.

The difference between this week and last week is 51,699 votes -- the Abercrombie-over-Hannemann margin of victory.

At this time last week, the insider speculation had Abercrombie winning. But, the expectation was for Hannemann to win in areas with a strong conservative Christian base such as the 47th state House District of Kahuku-Kahaluu-Laie with its many fundamentalist churches and strong Mormon representation.

The latest tally had Abercrombie with nearly twice as many votes as Hannemann in the 47th. Abercrombie won the state by 22 percent, and soundly beat Hannemann in this district that the former mayor should have won.

If there was ever a straight up-and-down test of the strength of the religious vote in Hawaii, it would be the state House Democratic primary pitting state Rep. Blake Oshiro against outgoing City Councilman Gary Okino. Both represent the district in various capacities. Oshiro is a strong supporter of the civil unions bill and was a target of groups such as the Hawaii Family Forum.

"For a handful of people, the civil unions bill was a litmus test. If civil unions were a high priority, they definitely made it known when I encountered them," Oshiro said.

Okino, in comparison, was warning voters to "vote for the candidate who best aligns with God's values or morality."

Still, Oshiro beat Okino by 15 percent. He acknowledged that he has never seen a campaign season "where religion was such a big part of the election."

The 33rd District of Halawa-Aiea-Pearlridge is not exactly a hotbed of atheism, but Oshiro still won handily with a vote he said "closely tracked Abercrombie's."

If Hawaii is a state with intractable problems of expanding its economy, educating its citizens and providing for their welfare, it may not be the state that mixes politics and prayer.

As important as religion is in life, it apparently is not that important a part of Hawaii's political soul.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at

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