HONOLULU (CN) – Former “blue dog” Democrat and U.S. Rep. Ed Case outran a crowded field in Hawaii’s First District congressional primary Saturday in a bid to return to Washington after a decade away from the beltway.
Case, who served in the U.S. House from 2002 until 2007, will face Cam Cavasso, a three-term state representative, in November. Cavasso’s 10,000 votes put him in fourth place overall behind three Democrats: Case, former Attorney General Doug Chin – who led Hawaii’s lawsuit against the Trump administration travel ban last year – and state Rep. Donna Kim.
With just 40 percent of the vote, it remains unclear what kind of mandate Case wields and what influence the remaining 60 percent of the Democratic caucus – Chin with 25 percent and Kim with 18 percent – can exert in shaping the party plank.
As part of the fiscally conservative and often hawkish “blue dog” Democrat group, Case notably supported the Iraq war and voted to defund PBS, NPR and Planned Parenthood in 2005.
Candidate Kaniela Ing, a socialist Democrat whose rally with darling of the left Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last week failed to duplicate Ocasio-Cortez’s upset in the Bronx, took a broad swipe at Hawaii’s Democrats for being “the most conservative Democrats in the whole country, bragging about Monsanto.”
Second Congressional District incumbent Tulsi Gabbard, who vaulted to prominence four years ago with her vocal support for Bernie Sanders, handily defeated challenger Sherry Alu Campagna with 83 percent of the vote. Campagna, endorsed by the Hawaii State Teacher’s Association, ran an aggressive campaign against Gabbard, questioning her progressive credentials. Campagna’s campaign also went against the unwritten rule of Hawaii politics against challenging an incumbent from one’s own party.
Governor David Ige defeated political factotum Colleen Hanabusa, who left Congress to run for governor and found herself without a seat when the music stopped Saturday night. Ige will run against Republican state Rep. Andria Tupola.
Incumbent U.S. Senator Mazie Hirano ran uncontested and will face Republican challenger Ron Curtis, an advocate of limited government, in November. None of the general election races are expected to be competitive.
Despite the stakes in this year’s election at the national level, polling places were quiet and lacked any of the bustle of the 2016 primaries. Some 286,000 people or 38 percent of registered voters cast ballots Saturday. Of those, 247,825 were registered as Democrats and 32,587 as Republican.
Hawaii ranks at the bottom for voter turnout despite efforts to increase participation this year including new same-day voter registration and expanded absentee mail-in voting opportunities.
At Kailua Elementary school, first-time voter Addison Davis, 18, expressed admiration for charismatic state Rep. Chris Lee. Asked about her opinion of millennial voters, she seemed unfazed by the “socialist” label.
“Their ideas are not that far-fetched,” Davis said. “It’s the language that scares people away.”
At a First District polling station in Honolulu, 27-year old John Remis praised Kaniela Ing’s campaign for refusing corporate money, “which should be the norm if we’re to have uncorrupted candidates responsible to their constituents,” Remis said.
A Facebook video of Ing’s election party shows the candidate panning through a crowd of weary but undefeated supporters.
“No lobbyists in this room. This is what it’s all about,” he says, reveling in the moment.