Former Congressman Ed Case won the Democratic primary race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.

Case, who’s hoping to return to Congress after a 12-year absence, took 38.7 percent of the vote, according to the state Office of Elections.

Lt. Gov. Doug Chin had 24.7 percent while state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim had 17.6 percent.

Rounding out the field were state Rep. Beth Fukumoto with 6.1 percent, state Rep. Kaniela Ing with 6.1 percent, state Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin with 3.1 percent and Sam Puletasi with 0.4 percent.

Ed Case and wife Audrey Nakamura smils at headquarters Saturday night, August 11, 2018. (Civilbeat photo by Ronen Zilberman)
Ed Case celebrated with his wife, Audrey Nakamura, at the I Love Country Cafe in Kapalama after seeing the first round of election results. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2018

Case, draped in lei and smiling, was clearly elated with the results. He wore a near-constant smile and held shaka raised high above his head as his supporters chanted “Case closed!”

Although Case said he was reluctant to call the race, he was relaxed and confident.

When he spoke to the press and addressed the crowd he cracked jokes and discussed his hopes for a new term in Congress. He said he wants to work closely with the existing delegation to help the state of Hawaii while also bridging the deepening partisan chasm in Washington.

“We believe that we should sit down at tables like adults and try to talk things through and come up with good solid solutions,” Case said. “We believe we can do that, and we believe that that is what most people in our country want, and that’s what this is about.”

In an interview with Civil Beat, Case was equally as confident about the race and why he won.

“I thought we had a very realistic shot at winning, and that depended on a couple of things,” Case said. “Did people remember me and did they remember me favorably. The second thing I needed to happen was to get people to believe in my basic message, which is to find a better way forward in Washington.”

He said he’s now looking forward to running an effective campaign ahead of November’s general election.

Doug Chin, at headquarters Saturday night, August 11, 2018. (Civilbeat photo by Ronen Zilberman)
Lt. Gov. Doug Chin is substantially behind Ed Case in the CD1 race. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat

Doug Chin conceded the race after the third round of numbers came out.

“I called him and congratulated him. He thanked me for running a clean and positive campaign. I told him I was available for whatever he needs,” Chin said.

Chin said his only plans for the future are to finish his term as lieutenant governor. That term ends in December.

“I didn’t think beyond this,” he said.

On the Republican side of the ballot, Cam Cavasso defeated Raymond Vinole 69.5 percent to 15.4 percent.

In Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard defeated Democratic challenger Sherry Alu Campagna, 75.6 percent to 11.1 percent.

Republican Brian Evans ran unopposed in the GOP primary and will move on to the general election.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, and will move on to the Nov. 6 general election against Republican Ron Curtis.

A Crowded Field And A Late Surprise

The race for the 1st Congressional District in urban Honolulu began after U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa announced her candidacy for governor, making it a wide open primary. Although it turned out to be a crowded field, much of the campaign revolved around three candidates — Kim, Chin and Case.

Kim, a longtime Senate leader, held the lead when the first independent poll came out in March. And Chin was widely considered a frontrunner after making a name for himself as Hawaii’s attorney general.

He mounted several high-profile legal challenges against the Trump administration, including over various versions of a travel ban that targeted Muslim-majority countries, a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In December, Chin, who was appointed by Gov. David Ige in 2015, announced he would run for Hanabusa’s seat. 

Chin would eventually give up his post as attorney general to become lieutenant governor, filling a vacancy left by Shan Tsutsui, who resigned to work as a political consultant.

The job change effectively removed Chin from the headlines, but he still remained a target of political attacks, particularly from Ing, who criticized Chin for working as a lobbyist for a private prison company and for giving an anti-gay speech at a church in 1995.

Ing described himself as a democratic socialist and the most progressive candidate in the race, a position that earned him loads of national attention despite lagging in local polls. Ing also was fined $15,000 by the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission for a series of violations. 

Kim, meanwhile, carved out her own niche by highlighting her experience, which included more than 30 years in elected office on the Honolulu City Council and in the Legislature. 

She was a leader in the early polls and in campaign contributions, but her support began to fade as the race wore on.

It was Case’s late entry, however, that changed the dynamics of the field. He announced his candidacy in June just before the deadline, and became the immediate frontrunner.

The Democratic candidates for the 1st Congressional District: top row, from left, Ed Case, Donna Mercado Kim, Kaniela Ing; bottom, from left, Doug Chin, Beth Fukumoto, Ernie Martin Civil Beat

The former congressman is known as a Blue Dog Democrat who is willing to work with Republicans, particularly on fiscal issues.

Case represented Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District from 2002 through 2006. He gave up his House seat when he mounted an unsuccessful primary campaign against then-U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in 2006.

Case, who works as a tourism industry executive, last ran for public office in 2012 when he and Mazie Hirono faced off in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Hirono won and went on to defeat former Gov. Linda Lingle in the general election.

Gabbard Favored Throughout

The race in Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, was less dramatic as Gabbard, one of the state’s most popular politicians, was never expected to lose to Campagna, a political newcomer.

Campagna did gain some traction, however, when she was endorsed by the Hawaii State Teachers Association, a union with nearly 14,000 members.

Campagna and others complained about Gabbard’s refusal to engage in debates, an issue that gained notice in the local press.

Gabbard had not debated an opponent since she first won election to Congress in 2012.

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