Democrat David Ige has a 4 percentage point lead over Republican Duke Aiona in the Hawaii governor’s race.

Ige, a state senator, is up 43 percent to 39 percent over Aiona, the former lieutenant governor.

Just 8 percent of voters favor Mufi Hannemann, the former Honolulu mayor running as the candidate of the Hawaii Independent Party.

Libertarian candidate Jeff Davis is at 2 percent. A total of 8 percent of voters surveyed are unsure as to who they’ll vote for in the Nov. 4 general election.

A relatively unknown candidate, Ige overcame a 10-1 fundraising deficit to defeat the sitting governor, Neil Abercrombie, in the primary.

The four gubernatorial before the start of forum at UH West Oahu presented by the West Oahu Economic Development Association, left to right are Duke Aiona, Republican Party, Jeff Davis, Libertarian Party, Mufi Hannemann, Independent Party,  Sen. David Ige, Democratic Party on August 26, 2014

Gubernatorial candidates, from left, Duke Aiona, Jeff Davis, Mufi Hannemann and David Ige at a forum sponsored by the West Oahu Economic Development Association on Aug. 26 at UH West Oahu.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which conducted The Civil Beat Poll, says the contest is a two-person race at this stage that favors Ige.

“Among people who voted in the Democratic primary, Ige does as well among Abercrombie voters as he does with those who voted for him,” said Fitch. “That means two things. On one level, Abercrombie voters are loyal Democrats that are not going to vote for Aiona. And given the way Abercrombie handled his defeat, that certainly doesn’t hurt. He could not have been more gracious.”

Fitch noted that Ige there were “a significant number” of Republicans who “crossed over” and pulled the Democratic Party ballot in the primary.

“They either just wanted to get Abercrombie out, or maybe they thought Ige would be an easier target for Republicans in the general,” he said. “But that did happen.”

Series of Debates Begins

Civil Beat surveyed 1,055 registered voters statewide Sept. 11-14. The poll, which sampled 75 percent landlines versus 25 percent cellphones, has a margin of error of 3 percent.

If the trend reflected in Civil Beat’s poll holds, it means that the 2014 election may not represent a historic shift, as Republicans are thinking.

Hawaii has been dominated by the Democratic Party for more than a half-century, but Republican leaders believe the landslide rejection of Abercrombie and a close U.S. Senate primary between Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa show that the opposition party is divided.

Ige leads among Japanese-Americans; Aiona leads among Hawaiians and Filipino-Americans.

There doesn’t appear to be much interest in third-party candidates, as Hannemann and Davis have hoped.

There are factors at play that may yet influence the outcome.

The Republican Governors Association, for example, is running television commercials trying to tie Ige to Abercrombie. The RGA argues that a vote for Ige would not represent a break from a Democratic rule that it says has hurt Hawaii residents’ pocketbooks.

Meanwhile, Ige has stepped up his fundraising schedule, including a visit last week to the Washington, D.C., home of John Jameson, who supports progressive Democrats. Ige will need campaign cash to fight off Republican efforts to define him.

And starting this week and continuing until late October, more than a dozen gubernatorial forums have been scheduled in which Ige, Aiona and Hannemann are expected to participate. The events include KITV and Civil Beat’s televised debate Sept. 30.

Digging a Little Deeper Into the Poll

Among the other findings of Civil Beat’s survey is that Ige runs better with female voters, Aiona with male voters.

Caucasian voters split between the two, but Japanese-American voters prefer Ige, who is Japanese-American. Hawaiian voters lean toward Aiona, who has Hawaiian ancestry. Aiona also did better among Filipino-Americans.

Ige leads Aiona on the Big Island and especially Maui.

Ige’s running mate, Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, is Japanese-American and Aiona’s running mate, pastor Elwin Ahu, has Hawaiian ancestry. Ethnic balance is often a consideration in Hawaii politics, but this governor’s race is unusual in that regard.

In terms of geography, our poll shows that Ige leads Aiona on the Big Island and especially Maui, but trails him in the part of Oahu that is in the 2nd Congressional District. The two candidates split voters in the 1st Congressional District, which is primarily urban Oahu.

Coming Tuesday: Poll results for the race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District between Republican Charles Djou and Democrat Mark Takai.

Coming Wednesday: Poll results for constitutional amendment questions on raising the retirement age for judges and justices, making public the names of Judicial Selection Commission nominees and using public money for private preschool programs.

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