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Ed Case overcomes late entry to lead a strong field

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(Video by Stan Lee / slee@staradvertiser.com)
Ed Case emerges in front in hotly contested Democratic primary race in the 1st Congressional District.
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Congressional candidate Ed Case and his wife, Audrey Nakamura, celebrate Saturday after the results of the second primary election print report at his headquarters in Kapalama.

Late entry Ed Case, who jumped into the hotly contested Democratic primary race in the 1st Congressional District in June, changing the dynamics of the field, was headed to a clear victory Saturday that will likely return him to Washington, D.C.

Lt. Gov. Doug Chin, the former state attorney general, generated early excitement as an opponent of Trump administration restrictions on travelers from Muslim-majority countries, but was sitting in second place while awaiting the final vote count. Coming in third and fourth, respectively, were Donna Mercado Kim and Kaniela Ing.

While not declaring victory as of about 11 p.m., Case said the race had effectively been decided. He had 38,032 votes to Chin’s 24,193 after three of four vote tallies.

“I’m so humbled to have the trust of so many voters,” Case said. He had received congratulatory calls from Chin and Kim.

The 1st District includes Honolulu from Makapuu to Mililani and Ko Olina. The seat is being vacated by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, whose bid to unseat Gov. David Ige failed.

“I felt we entered election day very, very strongly,” Case said at his election-night gathering spot, I Love Country Cafe in Kapalama. “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.”

Precinct volunteer Jackie Conant had worked for Case when he was in Congress.

“I know what he believes in,” she said. “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.”

Aerospace industry retiree Victor Craft, a military veteran, and his wife, Irene Craft, drove to Case’s gathering to show their support, even though they don’t live in his district.

“When Ed was in Congress before, he did an awful lot for veterans,” Victor Craft 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 will be the overwhelming favorite in the general election against likely GOP challenger Cam Cavasso.

Case, 65, who was a congressman from 2002 to 2005 and now is senior vice president/chief legal officer for Outrigger Hotels Hawaii, Waikiki, was far ahead in recent polls.

The self-described “moderate mainstream Democrat” said his views and experience align with voters in the 1st District.

His experience in Washington, D.C., includes 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.

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 just before the candidate filing 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.

In the District 2 race, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, 37, a popular politician and Iraq War veteran who still serves in the Hawaii Army National Guard, had a seven-fold lead on Sherry Alu Campagna. The district covers rural areas of Oahu and the neighbor islands.

Campagna, who said she believes the needs of rural Hawaii have been ignored, is a wetlands scientist, biologist and ecologist, according to her campaign.

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.”

Her Republican opponent, Brian Evans, ran unopposed in his primary.

In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Mazie Hirono, who battled cancer and came out strong against some of President Donald Trump’s more divisive policies, didn’t have to fight for Hawaii’s Democratic nomination in the primary.

The 70-year-old former lieutenant governor, U.S. representative and U.S. senator since 2013 is unopposed for another six-year term.

“I’m grateful for the support I’m receiving from the people of Hawaii. But, as always, I take nothing for granted and will continue to work hard to ask for their vote and support,” Hirono said in an email. “These are not normal times. Protecting Medicare and Social Security, health care, workers’ rights and a woman’s right to choose remain top priorities for me.”

Hirono said in April that her ongoing cancer treatment had not affected her congressional duties. At the time, Hirono said she was continuing to undergo long-term immunotherapy treatment for thyroid cancer. She disclosed last year that she had kidney cancer, and had surgery to remove a kidney and part of her rib.

Political analyst Moore said no one ran against Hirono “because she’s unbeatable.”

“Not only is she quite popular, she obviously has a very serious cancer diagnosis, and so I think for anyone who would have been a serious challenger … I think both the public and the party wouldn’t have forgiven someone who was running against Mazie at this stage of her career,” Moore said.

The Republican primary contest among mostly political unknowns had Ron Curtis and Consuelo Anderson in the top two spots with 5,001 votes and 4,139, respectively, while awaiting the final tally.

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

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