The Democratic primary races for governor and U.S. senator are closely fought contests, as Civil Beat reported this week.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state Sen. David Ige are tied, as are U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa

That’s not the case in the race to replace Hanabusa in the 1st Congressional District. But two of the seven candidates — Donna Mercado Kim and Mark Takai — lead the pack with 25 percent and 20 percent of the vote, respectively.

All other candidates we surveyed are in single digits, and over one-third of those polled are unsure of who’ll they vote for.

“CD1 is pretty sleepy right now,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which conducted The Civil Beat Poll. “It’s very, very early and opinion is soft. Everybody has a shot.”

Civil Beat surveyed 492 registered 1st District voters Feb. 12-15 for the U.S. House race. Of those, 323 said they were likely to pull the Democratic ballot in the Aug. 9 primary.

The poll included landlines and cell phone users and was conducted several days before the Honolulu Star-Advertiser published its own polls showing Kim leading Takai by 10 percentage points.


State Rep. Mark Takai.

Civil Beat did not ask about Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan, who didn’t announce until Feb. 15 that he had joined the race. We also did not ask voters about another candidate, community activist Kathryn Xian, who is trailing in the race. She has raised very little money for her campaign and has not held elective office.

Besides Kim and Takai in the lead, the Civil Beat Poll shows state Sen. Will Espero with 8 percent, Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang with 7 percent and Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson with 5 percent. Thirty-six percent of CD1 voters surveyed said they were not sure who they prefer.

Generally speaking, Kim, who has mixed ancestry including Filipino, does best among Filipinos and Hawaiians. Takai, who is Japanese-American, does best among Japanese. But the numbers are well below 50 percent and no candidate has a lock on any ethnic group. (Espero is Filipino, Chang is Chinese and Anderson has Hawaiian ancestry.)

The same soft numbers apply to the ideology of those surveyed, with Kim getting the highest marks from conservatives and Takai from liberals. Takai does slightly better than Kim among self-identified Democrats, while Kim does better with self-identified Republicans and conservatives.

Nor is there a clear favorite in the CD1 race among union households and military families. Takai is a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard, which has led to several military endorsements, including from Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. Union endorsements may prove critical in the race, and some labor groups have already expressed support for Anderson, Chang, Takai and Kim.

For now, CD 1 voters seem to be favoring candidates based primarily on name recognition: Kim has been in elected office since 1982, Takai since 1994. The entrance of Manahan, who is Filipino and represents Kalihi voters, may most effect Kim, who also represents Kalihi.

Clearly, all candidates will have to work to increase their visibility. Kim has thus far ducked two candidate forums, but she and Chang have so far raised the most campaign money with Anderson and Takai not far behind.

Contact Chad Blair via email at or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

About the Author