Sen. Sam Slom, the only Republican in Hawaii’s state Senate, hopes to hang on to the seat he’s held for 20 years despite a challenge from Democrat Stanley Chang.
If Chang wins today, Hawaii could become the only state in the country with a one-party legislative body. The last time that happened was in 1980, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.
Hawaii has long been a Democratic stronghold. Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans 2-to-1 in the last presidential election. In the Hawaii state House of Representatives, many Democrats are running un-contested.
Independent voter Linda Makela doesn’t see a problem with an all-Democrat state Senate, she said after voting for Chang on Tuesday at Kamiloiki Elementary School in Hawaii Kai. “It will be a change and maybe the change would help for the better,” the insurance claims professional said.
At the same polling place, Republican voter Alec Haller said Slom seems “like a great guy” and he voted for him. The prospect of an all-Democrat legislative body is “concerning,” the retail sales clerk said, “but Hawaii has always been one of the bluest states in the country so it’s not all that different.”
Russell Pinho, a retired professional engineer, said he voted to return Slom to the state Capitol.
“He’s been in office many, many years. He provides a little diversity. He’s the only Republican senator. It’s good to have that,” Pinho said.
Slom is widely viewed as a fiscal watchdog.
“I think if you look over the years, I brought a number of arguments that at first were totally ignored or people disagreed with,” Slom said. “I used to be the only one that always could be opposed to taxes. Well that’s not the case anymore.”
Chang is a Harvard-educated lawyer who served on Honolulu City Council. He visited more than 15,000 homes in the district by late October.
“We’re hoping that the combination of Democratic interest in the presidential election and Stanley Chang’s hard work on the doorsteps in that district will ensure a Democratic victory there,” said Tim Vandeveer, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.
The possibility of Slom’s defeat has some puzzling about what would happen with politically charged issues such as re-drawing the lines of voting districts and naming members of the elections commission. Typically, the Senate minority leader appoints two people to each panel. But the state Constitution is silent on who gets that power if there’s no minority leader, and the state attorney general’s office wouldn’t speculate on the matter.
Rep. Beth Fukumoto Chang, minority leader of the Hawaii House, tried to change that with legislation, but the bill died. Her caucus of seven Republicans is far outnumbered by the 44 Democrats in the Hawaii House.
“He does a good job of riling up the Republican base in a way that no one else has been able to do,” Fukumoto Chang said of Slom. “I don’t know what happens if we don’t have that.”