Gov. David Ige clinched another term as governor Tuesday night, taking a decisive lead of more than 100,000 votes over his Republican opponent state Rep. Andria Tupola.
Democrats Ige and his running mate state Sen. Josh Green had 244,814 votes with all precincts reporting, while Tupola and Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Marissa Kerns trailed far behind with 131,604 votes.
Tupola acknowledged after the first election returns were released that her campaign was unlikely to recover.
“I just wanted to say thank you to each and every one of you and let you know that this first printout — it was — the gap is huge,” Tupola said in remarks to about 250 supporters at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center. “But the gap will close. But I don’t think it will close the amount we need. But I can tell you right now that what we were supposed to do — we did it.”
Standing on the stage with her husband and two daughters, she added: “If I was doing it for a career, I would be crushed right now. But I never ran for office for a career. I ran for office because I knew inside of me it was the right thing to do at that time to serve my community.”
Ige leveraged the unpopularity of Republican President Donald Trump in Hawaii to help him overwhelm Tupola’s bid for governor, a tactic that was made easier by sharp divisions within Tupola’s own party.
Kerns attacked her running mate Tupola publicly during the campaign, saying Tupola should apologize for her voting record in the state House because she was too liberal. Kerns also alleged that Tupola deliberately prevented Kerns from appearing at a televised debate last month, a charge Tupola denied.
While Tupola and Kerns scuffled with one another during the general election campaign, Ige presented a more united front with his running mate Green, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.
Green, a physician, served in the state House from 2005 to 2009, and has been in the state Senate ever since. He became the first person to spend more than $1 million seeking the office of lieutenant governor, a position that has few official powers but has often been a stepping stone to higher elected office.
Kerns, the owner of a shipping and transportation company, is much less well known to the voters, and had spent only abut $26,000 on the race as of late October.
After a hard-fought contest in the Democratic primary this year against U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Ige actually ran a low-key campaign against Tupola that suggested his team never considered her much of a threat.
Tupola, 37, is finishing up her second two-year term in the state House, and is the first Samoan-Hawaiian woman to serve as the House minority leader. She represents Leeward communities from Ewa to Maili, and formerly taught music at Leeward Community College.
Ige, 61, is much more familiar to Hawaii voters. An electrical engineer by training, he served as a state representative from 1985 to 1993, and as a state senator from 1994 to 2014.
He won an upset victory over his fellow Democrat and former Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the 2014 primary election, and then defeated Republican former Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona in the general election that year.
For full Honolulu Star-Advertiser coverage of the 2018 general election, go to 808ne.ws/SA2018VOTE.