Hawaii Democrats in the congressional races made election wins look easy Tuesday night, with U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa all seizing and holding commanding leads from the first election returns.
Schatz, 44, dominated his race with Republican lawyer John Carroll to easily claim his first full, six-year term in the U.S. Senate.
“I’m honored by the support I’ve gotten from the people of the state of Hawaii, and given what happened at the national level, it’s all the more important that we hang together as a community and make sure that we fight for Hawaii’s values in the Senate,” Schatz said. “What happened with (Donald) Trump is shocking, and we’re going to need to be a firm counterweight to anything that he might do that would be dangerous, and there is plenty of reason to be concerned.”
Schatz was lieutenant governor when he was appointed by former Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2012 to fill out the unexpired term of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. Schatz went on to defeat Hanabusa in a special election in 2014 to retain the Senate seat for another two years, and is now the senior senator from Hawaii.
Schatz was opposed by Carroll, an Air Force fighter pilot and Korean War veteran. Carroll, 86, served four terms in the state House of Representatives and one term in the state Senate in the 1970s but has been unable to climb the political ladder any further.
Schatz finished the race with 289,298 votes to Carroll’s 87,270.
Hanabusa also took a comfortable lead from the start in her effort to return to the U.S. House to represent urban Honolulu. Hanabusa ran in both the general election and a special election that was held Tuesday to decide who will serve out the final two months of the late Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Takai’s term. Takai died July 20 from pancreatic cancer.
Hanabusa, 65, is a lawyer and former president of the state Senate who represented urban Honolulu in the U.S. House from 2010 until 2014. She left the House to make an unsuccessful run against Schatz to try to move up to the U.S. Senate, and more recently helped oversee the Honolulu rail project as chairwoman of the board for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.
Hanabusa said she understands the challenges ahead because she served in the U.S. House with a Republican majority after she was elected in 2010.
“I know what it’s like to be in the minority and what you need to do to get anything done,” she said. She noted that Trump has not gotten a great deal of support from his fellow Republicans in Congress, and said the question will be “whether the Congress will set policy as it should.”
“Donald Trump is also an unknown factor for all of us, and we’ll have to see where that all plays out as well,” she said.
In her own race, Hanabusa finished far out in front of a crowded field of 10 candidates who ran in the special election, and also enjoyed a wide lead over the three other candidates running in the general election contest to hold the U.S. House seat for the next two years.
Hanabusa’s opponents include Republican Shirlene D. Ostrov, 47, a retired Air Force colonel who was making her first run for public office. She is chief executive officer of a Washington, D.C.-based transportation and shipping logistics company.
Hanabusa won 135,069 votes in the general election race, while Ostrov received 42,569.
Gabbard, who has ranked among Hawaii’s most popular politicians in recent polling, ended the race with a 4-1 lead over her only opponent in her drive to win a third term in the U.S. House representing the neighbor islands and rural Oahu.
Gabbard, 35, is a Hawaii Army National Guard major and an Iraq War veteran. Her Republican opponent was real estate developer Angela Aulani Kaaihue.
Kaaihue took the rare step of acknowledging in a news release last summer that she had little chance of winning her race with Gabbard. She also offered to withdraw from the race if Democratic Gov. David Ige would help her resolve a legal dispute involving an 82-acre property her family owns in Waimalu.