In the hotly contested 1st congressional district primary race, late entry Ed Case soundly defeated his opponents in Democratic Party voting today.
Case, who jumped into the election in June and changed the dynamics of the field, had 44,788 votes to Lt. Gov. Doug Chin’s 28,284, a 39 percent to 25 percent lead, with most of the votes counted late last tonight.
State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim trailed in third place, with state Rep. Kaniela Ing and Republican-turned-Democrat state Rep. Beth Fukumoto neck and neck in the fourth and fifth spots.
While not officially declaring victory as of about 11 p.m., Case said if you do the math, the race had been decided.
“I’m so humbled to have the trust of so many voters,” Case said. He said he received calls from Chin and Kim congratulating him.
The 1st District includes Honolulu from Makapuu to Mililani and Ko Olina. The seat is being vacated with U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s run for governor.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, 37, a popular politician and Iraq War veteran who still serves in the Hawaii Army National Guard, also had an insurmountable seven-fold lead ahead of Sherry Alu Campagna in District 2, covering rural areas of Oahu and all other islands. Gabbard registered 91,086 votes, while Campagna had 13,315.
Campagna, who argued that the needs of rural Hawaii have been ignored, is a wetland scientist, biologist and ecologist, according to her campaign. Anthony Tony Austin was running third.
Gabbard will face singer Brian Evans of Maui, who has no elected experience and who ran unopposed in the GOP side of the primary.
Political analyst Colin Moore, a University of Hawaii professor, said Gabbard is the most popular politician in Hawaii. “I think people do respect her maverick approach,” Moore said. “It works for her.”
Case, 65, who was a congressman from 2002 to 2005 and now is senior vice president and chief legal officer for Outrigger Hotels Hawaii, Waikiki, was far ahead in recent polls.
“I felt we entered Election Day very, very strongly,” Case said at election gathering spot I Love Country Cafe at Kapalama Shopping Center after gaining an early lead. “I felt that we had great momentum all the way through the campaign. I really felt from the very first day that we went on the campaign trail that we had a really good shot at winning.”
Case is likely to face GOP candidate Cam Cavasso, who was soundly beating opponent Raymond Vinole, 9,531 votes to 2,177.
Republicans Carol Riley and her husband Richard Riley, both 67, crossed over to vote for Case.
“I think he’s a good man. I like his background. I think he’s honorable. He has integrity,” Richard Riley said of Case after voting at McKinley High School late Saturday afternoon.
Volunteer Jackie Conant had formerly worked for Case when he was in Congress.
“I know what he believes in,” said Conant. “I know he cares about what’s happening in our country. He’s the type of person who can work with both parties. You have that one person who can fix that divide.”
Victor Craft, a veteran, and his wife Irene Craft, drove to the campaign gathering spot to show their support for Case, even though they don’t live in his district. Victor Craft is retired from the aerospace industry.
“When Ed was in Congress before, he did an awful lot for veterans,” he said. “Plus I’ve spoken with Ed on a couple of occasions and I appreciated his political views … Instead of labels, he’s about getting to the root cause of problems.”
Case, a self-described “moderate mainstream Democrat” said his views and experience align with voters in the 1st District.
In Washington D.C., he also spent nearly three years as a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga.
Case said his negotiating style has an appeal.
“I think the message that I’ve been carrying out there about fixing our government and trying to solve problems, rather than make them worse, and trying to talk rather than yell at each other — I think voters have been looking for that,” Case said Friday.
Case added that “that’s been a contrast to other people in the race.”
During his last term in Congress, Case was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally moderate and conservative Democrats.
Case entered the race in June, just before the deadline, and sometimes could be seen sign-waving as a party of one in Mililani and other locations.
“It was a real mix throughout the district,” he said. “Sometimes I sign-waved by myself, sometimes it was with (my wife) Audrey, and sometimes it was with other people.”
Case said in eight weeks, his campaign raised about $200,000 in contributions. He also loaned $150,000 of his own money to the effort, he said.
Political analyst Moore said the crowded field favored Case with his past experience, adding that he would probably siphon votes from other candidates.
Chin, Hawaii’s lieutenant governor and former attorney general, generated early excitement among Democrats as a vocal opponent of Trump administration restrictions on travelers from Muslim-majority countries. Hawaii’s lawsuit against the policy went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices upheld a modified version of the ban.
Hawaii also sued to protect immigrant “dreamers” from the policies of President Donald Trump.
“I think Case got in at the end of the day because I suspect he probably saw some polling numbers which showed him winning and just jumped in at the last minute,” Moore said. “But I think if Chin had run a more robust campaign early on — that might have given case pause.”
Kim, a state senator, said she built a reputation as a “tough protector of the state and county pocketbook,” and would be a “warrior in Washington,”
The 29-year-old Ing ran a far-left populist campaign, calling for government investment in at-cost housing for Hawaii, Medicare for all, free college and the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He was active on social media — sending text messages asking for support through today.
Democratic Socialists of America members Naomi Burton and Nick Hayes, who produced a viral video for the congressional campaign of New York City’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also produced a video for Ing, who identifies as a Democratic socialist. Ocasio-Cortez also came to Oahu to campaign for Ing this week.
The Associated Press and Star-Advertiser reporters Nina Wu and Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.
For full Honolulu Star-Advertiser coverage of the 2018 Primary Election, go to 808ne.ws/SA2018VOTE