- Special Projects
State Sen. Gil Riviere cruised to an easy re-election Saturday in the much-watched Democratic primary battle to represent Oahu’s North Shore against former Sen. Clayton Hee.
Riviere, who previously served in the House as a Republican, held the seat for one four-year term, but Hee represented the area in the Senate for a decade. Hee dropped out of the governor’s race months ago and instead decided to seek his old seat.
Riviere had 63.8 percent of the vote while Hee had 31.6 percent, according to numbers released by the state Office of Elections. There were no candidates from other parties, so Riviere will retain his seat.
This year’s legislative primary is unusual in that nine lawmakers are leaving their seats to run for higher office. New faces will join the Legislature next session and this could prompt a reshuffling of the power structures in both chambers of the Capitol.
All 51 House seats and 13 of the 25 Senate seats were up for grabs.
Here are returns from some of the other House and Senate races:
• Sen. Brickwood Galuteria lost his Senate District 12 (Kakaako to Moiliili, Waikiki) seat with his primary loss to fellow Democrat Sharon Morikawa by 33.6 percent to 53.5 percent.
The winner of that Democratic primary will face Republican Lynn Barry Mariano in November.
Galuteria wasn’t the only incumbent to lose. In a rematch from two years ago, Rep. Cindy Evans lost to David Tarnas, 44.8 percent to 51.9 percent.
A third Democratic incumbent, Rep. Lei Learmont, lost to challenger Amy Perruso 38.7 percent to 45.3 percent. Gov. David Ige appointed Learmont in December to fill the House seat vacated by Rep. Marcus Oshiro.
Another longtime incumbent, House Democrat Romy Cachola, was leading challenger Sonny Ganaden by just five votes in late results Saturday, but pulled away to victory with a final count early Sunday, 48.2 percent to 45.5 percent.
• In Senate District 24 (Kaneohe), Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole and Rep. Ken Ito battled to replace Sen. Jill Tokuda, who vacated her seat to run for lieutenant governor. She lost by a narrow margin to Sen. Josh Green.
Keohokalole had 56.2 percent of the vote and Ito had 38.8 percent. There are no other candidates, so the Democratic primary winner gets the seat.
Ito has a more conservative voting record than Keohokalole and has served part of the district in the House for more than 20 years. Keohokalole has represented another part of the district in the House for four years.
• In the race to represent Senate District 3 (Kona), County Councilman Dru Kanuha beat fellow Democrat and former Hawaii County Councilwoman Brenda Ford by 52.1 percent to 43.4 percent .
Kanuha will face Libertarian candidate Michael Last in November. Green vacated the post to run for lieutenant governor.
• Another battle for an open seat unfolded in Senate District 19 (Ewa). Rep. Matt LoPresti, who is vacating the House seat he’s held for four years, crushed Alicia Maluafiti, a longtime lobbyist for genetically modified seed companies.
LoPresti won with 54.6 percent of the vote, Maluafiti had 24.2 percent and a third Democrat, Veronica Duzon, had 10.2 percent.
Maluafiti, who also operates a taxpayer-funded nonprofit for pets, has the support of the Senate’s top brass.
LoPresti will face Republican Kurt Fevella in the general election.
The District 19 seat was recently vacated by former Sen. Will Espero, another unsuccessful lieutenant governor candidate.
Just five Republicans remain in the 76-person Hawaii Legislature, all in the 51-member House of Representatives.
Republican Rep. Andria Tupola vacated her House District 43 (Maili to Ewa Villages) seat to run for governor.
Tupola’s choice to be her successor, Republican Sailau Timoteo, was deemed ineligible to run last week because she was born in American Samoa and is not a U.S. citizen.
That left the race to two Democrats, Stacelynn Kehaulani Eli and Michael Jesus Juarez. Eli won with 82.8 percent, while Juarez had 9.9 percent.
Nonpartisan candidate Angela Kaaihue was also running for the seat. Kaaihue garnered attention as a candidate for Congress in 2016 by making derogatory statements about Japanese-Americans, Hindus, Buddhists and others.
She got only 18 votes, far short of what she would have needed to advance to the general election.
Here are highlights from some of the other House races:
• In District 44 (Waianae), Rep. Cedric Gates easily defeated former Rep. Jo Jordan. Gates had 68.0 percent of the vote, while Jordan had 29.8 percent.
Gates unseated Jordan in 2016, although it was later determined that he shouldn’t have been allowed to run. Democratic Party officials allowed him to run as a Democrat in 2016, despite party rules forbidding him from doing so after running as a Green Party candidate in 2014.
• In House District 41 (Ewa), former Rep. Rida Cabanilla is on track to regain her seat. In the Democratic primary, Cabanilla had 48.2 percent of the vote to Lynn Robinson-Onderko’s 35.1 percent.
Cabanilla held the seat for a decade and was majority floor leader when LoPresti ousted her in 2014.
Cabanilla will face Republican Chris Fidelibus in November.
• In District 23 (Manoa), Democrat Dale Kobayashi, who lost by 70 votes to incumbent Rep. Isaac Choy in 2016, beat out four other Democrats in early returns to replace Choy, who did not seek another term.
Kobayashi, son of longtime Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, had 36.7 percent of the vote compared to 23.1 percent for Andrew Garrett, 11.0 percent for Dylan Armstrong, 9.0 percent for Elton Fukumoto and 7.1 percent for Benton Rodden.
• In District 36 (Mililani), four Democrats vied to replace Rep. Beth Fukumoto, who is vacating the seat to run for Congress. She lost by a wide margin.
Marilyn Lee won with 33.1 percent, Dean Hazama had 29.7 percent, Trish La Chica had 22.6 percent and Zuri Aki had 8.0 percent.
Lee is a former legislator who was unseated by Republican-turned-Democrat Fukumoto in 2012.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Val Okimoto in the general election.
• In District 11 (Kihei to Wailea-Makena), Democrats Lee Myrick, Tina Wildberger and Don Couch faced off to replace Rep. Kaniela Ing, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Wildberger won with 54.6 percent, compared to 37.7 percent for Couch and 4.0 percent for Myrick.
There were no Republican candidates, so Wildberger gains the seat because nonpartisan candidate Daniel Kanahele fell far short of what he needed to advance to the general election.
• In District 33 (Aiea), incumbent Rep. Sam Kong faced a challenge from Tracy Arakaki in the Democratic primary. Kong kept his seat with 51.8 percent of the vote to Arakaki’s 25.9 percent.
Kong was first elected to the seat in 2014, but beat Arakaki by just 37 votes when he challenged Kong in 2016.
• Since Ito and Keohokalole ran for the Senate, their two Kaneohe-area House seats were up for grabs.
Four Democrats fought to represent District 48, Keohokalole’s seat. Lisa Kitagawa had 37.9 percent, former Rep. Jessica Wooley had 28.1 percent, Kika Bukoski had 20.7 percent and Randy Gonce had 9.6 percent.
There were no other candidates, so Kitagawa gets the seat.
Four Democrats were also contending for District 49, Ito’s seat. Scot Matayoshi had 69.5 percent, Natalia Hussey-Burdick had 18.1 percent, Mo Radke had 4.1 percent and Kaui Dalire had 4.2 percent.
Matayoshi wins the seat because nonpartisan candidate Adriel Lam fell far short of what was needed to force a general election runoff.
Many legislators won their primary races and will not face a general election opponent. They include Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and Sen. Lorraine Inouye; and Reps. Mark Nakashima, Richard Creagan, Troy Hashimoto, Kyle Yamashita, James Tokioka, Dee Morikawa, Daniel Holt and Sharon Har. All are Democrats who won by comfortable margins, except for Yamashita who escaped a tough challenge from progressive Tiare Lawrence by less than 4 percentage points.
Seventeen Democratic incumbents ran unopposed and automatically won re-election. They include House Speaker Scott Saiki, Majority Leader Della Au Belatti and Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke; Reps. Joy San Buenaventura, John Mizuno, Gregg Takayama, Aaron Ling Johanson and Nicole Lowen; and Sen. Breene Harimoto.
Democratic incumbents poised to move on to face Republican or other opponents in the general election include Sens. Roz Baker, Clarence Nishihara, Michelle Kidani and Maile Shimabukuro; and Reps. Chris Todd, Mark Hashem, Ryan Yamane, Calvin Say, Tom Brower, Takashi Ohno, Cachola, Lynn DeCoite, Angus McKelvey, Bert Kobayashi and Richard Onishi.
For the now-four Republican House incumbents, Rep. Lauren Matsumoto Cheape was unopposed and will be re-elected automatically while Reps. Bob McDermott, Gene Ward and Cynthia Thielen face either Democratic or Libertarian opponents in the general election but are expected to easily keep their seats.
Newly elected legislators will begin their terms Nov. 7, the day after the general election.
To see the outcome of every race, click here.
Chad Blair and Nathan Eagle contributed to this report.
Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.
Every day, journalists in nonprofit newsrooms like Civil Beat dig deeper into the raw news of the day to deliver in-depth and investigative reporting that engages communities, advances solutions, and demands accountability. This news can’t wait. So why would you?
Give today and NewsMatch will double the impact of your donation. We’ll even throw in a limited-edition Civil Beat t-shirt!