Former Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang ousted the Senate’s lone Republican Sam Slom on Tuesday night, making Hawaii the only state in the nation with an entirely Democratic state Senate.
Slom, 74, known for his impassioned speeches on the floor of the Legislature railing against tax increases and government spending, has served the East Honolulu area, from Hawaii Kai to Kahala and Diamond Head, for five terms.
Chang, 34, a Harvard Law School graduate who grew up in the Kahala area, waged a grass-roots campaign going door to door throughout the neighborhoods.
“I am deeply humbled by the outpouring of support from East Honolulu,” said Chang, who was reached late Tuesday night as the final returns came in. “I’ve knocked on over 16,000 doors, worn out three pairs of shoes, been bitten by two dogs and lost 25 pounds over the course of this election. And all because I believe the people of East Honolulu deserve a state senator who will listen and will deliver.”
Chang is viewed as a progressive within the Democratic Party, while Slom has trumpeted traditional Republican values and is known for his advocacy for small-business interests.
In an interview last month, Slom fretted about the prospect of having a Senate composed of a single party, saying it would hamper the public’s access to different ideas and theories.
Republican Feki Pouha, who represents Oahu’s North Shore in the state House of Representatives, was also ousted by Democratic challenger Sean Quinlan.
There were nine Senate seats and 30 House seats up for grabs in this year’s general election. Except for Rep. Jo Jordan, who lost during the August primary, the rest of the Legislature’s incumbents retained their seats.
Political newcomer Cedric Gates, who ousted Jordan in the primary, beat Republican Marcus Paaluhi for the House seat representing Makaha, Waianae and Makua.
The race was controversial, with the Hawaii Democratic Party asserting earlier this year that Gates shouldn’t have been able to run as a Democrat because he had run in 2014 as a Green Party candidate. Under party rules, this should have barred him from the party for three years. However, party officials said they didn’t notice the error in time and Gates remained on the ballot as a Democrat.
Democrat Nadine Nakamura will take the place of Rep. Derek Kawakami in the House representing Hanalei, Princeville and Kapaa on Kauai. Kawakami chose to forgo the House seat this year to run for a seat on the Kauai County Council, which he won.
Nakamura is a former Kauai County councilwoman and managing director under Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho.
Sen. Kai Kahele dominated Libertarian challenger Kimberly Arianoff for the Senate seat representing Hilo. Kahele was appointed to the seat by Gov. David Ige earlier this year following the sudden death of his father, Sen. Gil Kahele, from a heart attack.
Rep. Karl Rhoads also easily beat former Honolulu City Councilman Rod Tam for the Senate seat representing downtown Honolulu, Nuuanu, Iwilei and Liliha. The seat was left vacant by Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, who chose not to seek re-election.
Tam, who was convicted in 2011 for stealing city funds and violating campaign spending laws, tried to launch a political comeback this year as a Republican. He served as a Democrat in the state House from 1982 to 1994 and in the state Senate from 1994 to 2002 before being elected to the Honolulu City Council, where he served until an unsuccessful mayoral bid in 2010.
Rhoads, an attorney, served as a member of the House of Representatives representing Chinatown, Iwilei and Kalihi for a decade and served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee since 2013.
Democrat Daniel Holt will take Rhoads’ place in the House after beating Republican Kaiwiola Coakley.
In other key races, Democrat Rep. Matt LoPresti beat out Republican challenger Bryan Jeremiah for the House seat representing Ewa.
That race turned ugly at times, with both at one point seeking restraining orders against the other.
LoPresti is an associate professor of philosophy and humanities at Hawaii Pacific University. Jeremiah is a project manager at PEI Construction.
House Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto Chang, a moderate Republican, easily fended off a challenge from former Democratic state Rep. Marilyn Lee for the House seat representing Mililani.
This is the third time that Lee has attempted to win back the seat that she once held.
Fukumoto Chang was criticized earlier this year by some of her Republican House colleagues who charged that she was too accommodating to ruling House Democrats.
The party tension grew last summer when a crowd of delegates at the Republican state convention in Waipahu booed Fukumoto Chang when she announced from the convention stage that she could not support Donald Trump for president.
Lee served in the state House as a Democrat for 16 years up until 2012, when she was ousted by Fukumoto Chang.