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Hawaii’s Democrats have spoken, and they much, much prefer Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.
UPDATE: Sanders, the Vermont senator, defeated Clinton, the former secretary of state, 70 percent to 30 percent in the state’s presidential preference poll Saturday, with 100 percent of all precincts reporting.
Approximately 23,530 ballots were cast for Sanders, while 10,125 ballots were cast for Clinton. Based on the totals, 17 delegates were awarded to Sanders and eight to Clinton.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard bucked that trend and campaigned aggressively for Sanders, however, a candidate she argued would keep America out of unnecessary wars.
“These results are amazing,” said Gabbard after the vote was announced. “Bernie Sanders’ big win in Hawaii is to his credit, but also to the credit of all the incredible grassroots volunteers who have worked so hard to turn out the vote today.”
She continued: “Bernie Sanders had very little name recognition in Hawaii compared to Hillary Clinton. She had the endorsement of nearly all of Hawaii’s former Governors, former Members of Congress, and the other three members of our congressional delegation.”
Gov. David Ige was one of the few Democrats to stay neutral in the race. For his part, former Gov. Neil Abercrombie appeared at a campaign rally for Jane Sanders last weekend where he spoke warmly of Sanders, his former colleague in Congress.
The Hawaii contest followed big wins for Sanders in Alaska and Washington state. The Alaska caucus was called about 90 minutes before Hawaii polls opened, and the Washington caucus not much longer after that.
In a statement after the vote, Sanders said, “I want to thank the people of Hawaii for their strong support and for turning out in huge numbers for Saturday’s caucuses. Nobody should have any doubt that this campaign has extraordinary momentum and that we have a path toward victory. In state after state, our grassroots effort has taken on the entire political establishment.”
He added: “We have taken on the senators and the governors and the mayors and the members of Congress. Our political revolution is the best chance we have to keep Donald Trump or any other Republican out of the White House.”
Hawaii’s race was technically not a caucus — ballots were kept secret — but considered as such. At stake were 34 delegates, nine of whom are so-called superdelegates who are free to support whichever candidate they choose at the national convention in Philadelphia in late July.
Turnout at many precincts was heavy, with voters willing to wait in long lines in order to express strong support for their preferred candidate.
On social media and television there were complaints that some voters were turned away, and confusion about when polls closed — something the party did not make clear. Other comments urged Democrats to stay at polling precincts, where other party business was being conducted, until they had voted.
Gradually, unofficial reports of precinct counts began to circulate online, on phones and in person. State Rep. Kaniela Ing tweeted out just after 6 p.m., “Sorry East Coasters. Hawaii dem primary results won’t be in until 7-8pm HST, so 1-2am for you all. But so far looks like a Bernie landslide!”
But it would not be made official until well after 9:30 p.m. Hawaii time, frustrating many locally as well as many on the mainland following the race. The first results were only partial, too, but enough to make clear the clear winner.
In spite of Saturday’s sweep, Sanders continues to trail Clinton in delegates. But the latest wins are certain to embolden his campaign and spur him to stay in the race until the convention.
Besides Sanders and Clinton, real estate developer Roque De La Fuente and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley were on the ballot, though O’Malley dropped out of the race two months ago. De La Fuente earned 12 votes and O’Malley six.
“I am voting for Hillary because we need to have a revolution,” said Helena Manzana, a state worker who voted at Manoa Elementary School. “She is the most competent person running.”
Manzana said Clinton had been getting a lot of “flak” in the media, and she said she believes much of what is being said about Clinton is untrue. She is also looking ahead to the general election, where New York businessman Donald Trump is the Republican frontrunner.
“I am optimistic that she can beat Trump,” she said. “I understand the protest vote, but history tells us what happens when we vote for the wrong person. So, I am hopeful it will be Hillary.”
But another Manoa voter, Brad Shields, said Sanders is the better candidate to take on Trump. He pointed to public opinion polls that he said consistently demonstrate Sanders’ advantage.
“Both Hillary and Trump have high negatives,” he pointed out. “Sanders is authentic.”
Shields also likes Sanders’ positions on issues.
“I think the gulf between the super-wealthy and the rest of us is so wide,” he said. “Systemic changes have to happen, and Bernie is the only one who can do that — and do so courageously.”
Shields dismissed the fact that the Democratic establishment in Hawaii backed Clinton, including his own union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association.
“The power of unions is somewhat diluted, and union jobs are getting shipped overseas,” said Shileds. “The middle class is becoming disenfranchised.”
There were concerns among party members that turnout might be hampered by the three-day weekend, celebrations Saturday for Prince Kuhio, the NCAA Final Four college basketball championship and the fact that it is spring break.
In fact, Democrats turned out in droves, suggesting it was smart of the party to print 100,000 ballots in anticipation.
Hawaii is traditionally a Democratic state, but the presidential election has drawn great focus. Earlier this month Hawaii Republicans increased their turnout when they voted for Trump.
The Democratic Party, in agreement with the campaigns, released the vote totals only after all the votes had been cast, reported and verified.
The totals are unofficial and will be counted by hand in the coming days. The official tally will then be certified by the party’s State Central Committee and released to the public within 20 days, as per the rules and by-laws of the party.
Now, the attention will go toward the general.
Jim Shon, an educator, former legislator and Clinton supporter who was on hand at Stevenson Middle School in Makiki, was among many Democrats expressing satisfaction at the high turnout — particularly among younger voters.
“Let’s hope they can do that in the fall,” he said.
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