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Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. is in front of the pack of candidates running for lieutenant governor, according to the latest Civil Beat Poll.
Carvalho rose to the top with 19 percent of likely voters saying they would cast their ballot for him. State Sen. Josh Green was second at 16 percent, followed by former Board of Education member Kim Coco Iwamoto at 14 percent, Sen. Jill Tokuda at 11 percent and Sen. Will Espero at 8 percent.
The poll was conducted May 3-5 among 707 likely primary voters statewide. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.7 percent.
As is common at this point in the race for Hawaii’s No. 2 executive post, many voters were undecided — 32 percent. None of the candidates have participated in a statewide race, and name recognition is critical, so expect an influx of ads among the candidates that can afford the airtime.
“It’s anybody’s race still,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which conducted the poll. “People aren’t paying attention yet.”
The candidates did best closest to their own homes. Carvalho captured 55 percent of the support on Kauai, where he has been mayor the past decade. Tokuda, who represents windward Oahu, didn’t register at all with voters on the Garden Isle.
Green, an emergency room doctor who lives on the Big Island, received 41 percent support from likely voters in Hawaii County but only 2 percent on Kauai.
Support among the candidates was fairly split among urban Oahu voters, with Carvalho leading at 16 percent, Espero at the bottom with 10 percent and the others in between.
There were similar breakdowns across ethnic lines. Espero’s strongest support came from fellow Filipino-Americans, a group he polled better with than the other candidates at 27 percent.
Green, the only white candidate, did best with white voters at 24 percent. And Carvalho, who is part Hawaiian, did better than the others with Hawaiian voters at 30 percent.
Japanese support was split between Carvalho, Iwamoto and Tokuda at about 19 percent. Green received 12 percent and Espero had 6 percent.
Chinese voters who were polled favored Carvalho and Tokuda at 15 percent, followed by Espero and Iwamoto at 10 percent and Green at 5 percent. They were also the most undecided group, with 45 percent saying they were unsure who they would vote for.
The lieutenant governor has hardly any power beyond granting name changes and processing documents to convey some state lands. But the job remains a huge lure for politicians who can use it as a ladder to higher office. Three past Hawaii governors and the state’s two sitting U.S. senators served as lieutenant governors. And the current LG, who took over in January, aspires to serve in Congress.
A Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll, conducted in mid-March by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, had Green on top with 19 percent of the vote, followed by Carvalho at 14 percent, Tokuda with 12 percent, Espero with 9 percent and Iwamoto with 5 percent. Forty-one percent were undecided.
Intense flooding on Kauai in April, which destroyed homes and isolated residents due to landslides across roads, thrust Carvalho into the spotlight. He appeared in frequent statewide news broadcasts and traveled to the Capitol in Honolulu to plead for emergency relief, which the Legislature and Gov. David Ige provided.
The return of comments: Join Civil Beat political editor Chad Blair and reporter Nathan Eagle for a live discussion of poll results on Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. We’ll be accepting — and moderating — comments in a new live chat format you can find on our home page on Friday.
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Coming Wednesday: First Congressional District results
See the complete results of the Civil Beat Poll below.