Nationally, most of the attention Tuesday night will be on which party will control the U.S. Senate — something that may not be known for weeks or months, given runoff rules in several showdown states.
Whatever the outcome, it will be a referendum on both President Barack Obama, the lame-duck Democrat, and the Republican Party, which hopes to control both houses of the U.S. Congress for the next two years in advance of the 2016 presidential election.
Locally, control of the Hawaii Legislature is very likely not going to change: Come Wednesday morning, the Democratic Party of Hawaii will almost certainly continue to control both the state Senate and House of Representatives, as it has for decades. The only question is exactly who will fill those seats, and whether the GOP can pick up a few.
But the Hawaii Republican Party has a real chance to wrest control of Washington Place by electing Duke Aiona governor. It can also take back one of the state’s four congressional seats by electing Charles Djou to the U.S. House.
Or maybe not.
Hawaii voters could instead send Democrat David Ige to the fifth floor of the Capitol, where his running mate, Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, already has an office. Ige, a state senator, surprised a lot of people by forcing the incumbent governor, Neil Abercrombie, into early retirement in the Aug. 9 primary.
State Rep. Mark Takai, meanwhile, is in a neck-and-neck race with Djou to replace U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, the 1st Congressional District representative who lost to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in the primary. Schatz, a Democrat, is on Tuesday’s ballot, too, against Republican Cam Cavasso.
And so is U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the Democrat who again faces Republican Kawika Crowley for the 2nd Congressional District. Both incumbents are favored but, well, one never knows.
One thing is certain: All those campaign commercials, including the gloomy attack ads, will cease. Campaign signs will come down. Robocalls and pleas for donations will cease. And major intersections will once again be blissfully free of sign-wavers.
Two of the hottest election questions do not involve candidates.
Statewide, voters are being asked for “yes” or “no” votes on five constitutional amendment questions. The most controversial asks whether public money should be used for private preschool programs.
On Maui County, which includes Molokai and Lanai, residents are being asked whether there should be a moratorium on genetically engineered farming while a study is conducted on GMOs’ impact on health.
Both issues have attracted tons of spending from independent groups. Millions from super PACs — political action committees — are also being spent by outside groups in the races for governor and the 1st Congressional District. In the meantime, locally funded super PAC money is influencing county council races, including two seats on the Honolulu City Council.
Races for mayor will be decided on Maui and Kauai, and four seats are open on the board of trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Many have observed that the general election is quieter that the primary. In addition to the cliffhanger between Schatz and Hanabusa and Abercrombie’s historic landslide loss, Hawaii also saw Tropical Storm Iselle close precincts and cause damage in Puna on the Big Island.
Still, turnout was near all-time low levels for the primary and the worry is that we may not move the needle much in the general. That will be one of the stories to come out after Tuesday’s voting.
There are also a record number of Libertarian candidates on the ballot and Mufi Hannemann, who is seeking to make history by winning the governorship as a Hawaii Independent Party candidate.
Care to make a difference?
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and anyone in line at 6 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
Here’s a tip from the state Office of Elections: Save time by voting during non-peak hours — in the morning from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. or in the afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Not sure where to vote? Contact your County Clerk’s office or visit www.hawaii.gov/elections and use the Polling Place Locator to find your polling place. It’s pretty nifty.
One other note: Tuesday is a state and county holiday. But not at Civil Beat. We’ve got an election to cover, after all. Look for our live blog and full reports on the big races as results pour in.