With a polarizing presidential race, an election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Mark Takai and the possibility of an all-Democrat state Senate, Hawaii voters face difficult choices at the polls.
Many have taken advantage of early voting held on most islands over the last two weeks, and others will head to the polls Tuesday to cast their votes. Some are expressing relief that campaign season is coming to a close.
“I am really looking forward to this election cycle being over and Hillary being president” said Tamara Luthy, 30, a graduate student at University of Hawaii, who voted early for Democrat Hillary Clinton on Oct. 31 in Honolulu. “Unfortunately, this election cycle has played like a reality TV show, and I think that there are really serious repercussions for whoever gets elected to be our president.”
Even though Democrats outnumbered Republicans 2-to-1 in Hawaii’s last presidential election, voters are still divided between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
“I voted against Hillary. I don’t trust her,” said Al Coleman, 57, an IT professional who lives in Waikiki and cast his vote for Trump in early voting in Honolulu.
In other races, former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a Democrat, is hoping to return to her old seat in Congress, which she gave up to run for Senate two years ago. She’s running in against Republican Shirlene Ostrov and others in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District, where voters are deciding who will replace the late U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, who died in July.
There’s a chance voters could send two different candidates to fill Takai’s former seat, to serve different periods of time. The double election includes candidates for the two-month assignment to finish Takai’s term and candidates to serve for two years starting in January.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is also hoping to return to his seat, and facing a challenge from Republican John Carroll and others.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is also running for re-election, facing challenger Angea Aulani Kaaihue, who’s running in that race as a Republican. But Kaaihue is also running as a Democrat against Hanabusa and others in the special election to serve the rest of Takai’s term.
The lone Republican state senator, Sam Slom, who held his seat for the last 20 years, is facing a challenge from Democrat Stanley Chang.
“He does a good job of riling up the Republican base in a way that no one else has been able to do,” said Republican state Rep. Beth Fukumoto Chang, minority leader of the Hawaii House, about Slom. “I don’t know what happens if we don’t have that.”